Ravel - Piano Concerto in G major

Duration : 30 minutes

Ingo Metzmacher conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France performing Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major with Francesco Piemontesi. Concert recorded live on 12 October 2018 at the Radio France Auditorium, in Paris.

Ravel undertook simultaneously the composition of his two concertos for piano, the Concerto for the left hand and his Concerto in G major, in the spring of 1930. The two scores were completed by the autumn of the following year. How does one, as a virtuoso pianist, compose a concerto in which the orchestra is rightfully highlighted and not simply considered a mere accompaniment?  How, in a nutshell, does one renew the concerto form? For Liszt, according to Marcel Marnat, "like Ravel, who experienced the same difficulties when composing his concertos, the solution required two works", that is to say, a "super-concerto" in a way, and an "anti-concerto", both written at the same time: a concerto for virtuoso pianist, and a poem for piano and orchestra in which the soloist is part of the orchestra but does not go against it. 

The Concerto in G, a work whose structure is, of the two concerti, the least confusing, "the one that isn't for the right hand only" as Ravel often said, was initially conceived in the form of a Basque rhapsody. The composer himself explained: "It is a concerto in the strictest sense of the word, which I wrote in the spirit of the piano concertos of Mozart and Saint-Saëns. In my opinion, the music of a concerto can be happy and sparkling, and need not necessarily strive for depth and dramatic effects. It is said of certain great classical musicians that their concerti were conceived not for the piano, but against it. With regards to my music, I consider this judgement to be perfectly motivated. I had planned, initially, to call my work Divertissement, but then realised that this was not necessary, deeming the title Concerto sufficiently explicit in expressing the musical character with which it is built."

This extremely virtuosic concerto transcends its own time. The first movement utilises rhythms and motifs often heard and enjoyed elsewhere (blues, jazz, fox-trot), with elegance and subtlety typical of Ravel. The third movement however, according to André Boucourechliev, "unleaches its 'motorism', a great obsession of the 1930s," with various playful shenanigans from the brass (trombone glissandi) and other jazz influences. As for the slow movement, perhaps one of the composer's most beautiful musical inspirations, it is a magnificent melodic reverie, upheld by the English horns, from whom we hear "hints of Sarabande and valse noble" but where "the control of an omnipresent spirit censors not the fantasies" (Boucourechliev). The work was nonetheless an exhausting project for the composer, working "two bars by two bars", with Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in front of him. First performed at the Salle Pleyel by Marguerite Long (to whom the work was dedicated) on 14 January 1932, with Ravel at the helm of the orchestra, the Concerto in G quickly garnered great success throughout Europe, accompanied by its composer and its dedicatee.

Written by Christian Wasselin

Ingo Metzmacher conducts the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France performing Debussy's Jeux, the Symphony n°2 by Dutilleux, and the Piano Concerto in G major by Ravel with the pianist Francesco Piemontesi
Full concert
The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France performs Debussy, Dutilleux and Ravel with Francesco Piemontesi
Maurice Ravel
Maurice Ravel
All artists
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio FranceOrchestra
  • Francesco PiemontesiPerformer