Fronting up this release with Ravel’s ever-popular Bolero might seem a shrewd selling point, but it isn’t what the package as a whole is really about. For all that, Ravel’s own arrangement of his orchestral tour de force works surprisingly well here, thanks to skilful conjuring of keyboard colours by this husband-and-wife piano duo, plus relentlessly steady drumming from the two percussionists, so that the music’s cumulative power truly builds.
The centrepiece in every sense, however, is Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. One of the 20th century’s formidable masterworks, it was regarded as ultra-difficult to play, and particularly to co-ordinate between its four performers, at the time of its premiere in 1938 (by Bartók and his wife).
Besides reaching a state-of-the-art standard in both departments, this recording is remarkable in terms of the bigger picture also. Along with all the rhythmic dynamism, the music’s dark grandeur and dramatic sweep come across superbly – something that’s much harder to convey while meeting such technical demands at the same time. The finale’s chirpier, folk-music manner can often sound trite, but here it surges along with a deep-in momentum that convinces strongly.
Matthew Hindson’s Pulse Magnet is an wacky, up-front, fun piece whose outer sections make no attempt to pretend otherwise, which is fair enough; and its longer and slower central movement offers gorgeously chiming sonorities and note-patterns that mesmerise the ear.
Artists: Pascal and Ami Rogé (pianos); Paul Clarvis and Joby Burgess (percussion)
Malcolm Hayes is a composer, contributes to BBC Music Magazine, and is currently writing a book on Sibelius.