Ralph’s newest CD release on Naxos, French Piano Rarities, has just been awarded a 10/10 score in Crescendo Magazine, scoring maximally on all four elements: the sound recording, the liner notes, the repertoire and the interpretation! It has also been awarded the Crescendo ‘Découverte Award’. Crescendo’s music critic Pierre-Jean Tribot has also interviewed Ralph; the text (in French) can be found here.
Today, music critic Seth Colter Walls wrote a very positive review about Ralph’s new CD in The New York Times: ‘In addition to other solo piano writing from Boulez, van Raat’s new album shows his lustrous way of playing lesser-heard gems by Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen. Given this repertoire, the album’s title, “French Piano Rarities,” makes plenty of sense. Yet it doesn’t do justice to the worldliness that informs this pianist’s process, no matter which tradition he is exploring.’ Dutch NRC Handelsblad critic Joep Christenhusz describes Ralph’s playing as ‘alert, powerful pianism‘ in this review!
On May 28th, Ralph took part in a special and memorable live-stream concert, straight from an empty Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. This project, called Music for Empty Spaces, was initiated and produced by composer, pianist, musicologist and organizer Heather Pinkham. For this project, Heather has asked twelve composers, residing in The Netherlands, to write a 4-minute piece for a specific soloist (twelve in total as well), reflecting on the lockdown corona situation. For every performance, the composer was the only audience member. Composers involved were a.o. Jacob TV, Heather Pinkham, Chiel Meijering, Aspasia Nasopoulou, and Anthony Fiumara. Joey Roukens wrote a concise but dramatic piano work for Ralph, called Roaming Empty Streets. Besides the live stream, the concert was live broadcasted by the Dutch national radio. The entire concert can now be watched back here, with Ralph’s performance starting at 49’30”.
The Netherlands’ Radio 4 classical music presenter Lex Bohlmeijer has elected Ralph’s new French Piano Rarities release on Naxos, as a featured CD for his daily evening program Passaggio. Starting today, every workday this week, between 19h and 20h, a track of the CD will be played, introduced by a short interview with Ralph. The broadcast can be heard live here.
New, very positive reviews on Ralph’s new CD ‘French Piano Rarities’ keep coming in! For example, music critic Bas van Putten describes the recording in ‘De Groene Amsterdammer‘ as ‘an overwhelmingly relevant CD‘. Critic Emanuel Overbeeke writes for OpusKlassiek: ‘Van Raat plays with equal dedication both well-known and lesser-known composers and he still grows as a pianist every year. From the beginning, Van Raat had a strong focus on the music’s structure, and was not intimidated by the beauty of the specialty of the musical moment. However, during the course of years, his palet became everytime richer and more nuanced.’ Italian magazine Il Manifesto : ‘Ralph van Raat [is] a pianist who has a talent for launching a dialogue with the most intellectual and lofty contemporary music (Bryars, Adams, Riley) and also possesses the intimate sensitivity that is required to understand the groundbreaking twentieth-century music most ideologically and conceptually rooted in the nineteenth century (Stravinsky). […] Like in a Borges’ novel, van Raat manages to untangle [Pierre Boulez’] critical and polemical rigour through a creative rendition that seamlessly establishes […] a nexus that gets changed and self-adjusts as it encounters the performances and works of other composers.’
On Friday, May 29th, an extended interview with Ralph, in the context of his new CD with French piano rarities, has been published by newspaper Trouw (written by Sandra Kooke). Also, the first review was published in newspaper De Volkskrant, in which the album is much praised: ‘Ralph van Raat is a pianist who plays pieces that most of his colleagues don’t dare. […] He plays it all with great excitement’. The CD has also been described as ‘very refined’ in this Belgian review by Michel Dutrieue. Raymond Bisha has made a podcast about the CD here.
Today, Naxos has released Ralph’s 30th new album worldwide: French Piano Rarities!! The album contains works by Debussy, Messiaen, Boulez and a small piece by Ravel, that are seldomly or never heard on the concert stage. One of the works is a world premiere recording of Boulez’ substantial early work Prélude, Toccata et Scherzo, for which Ralph has been granted special permission from both the Boulez heirs and the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland. Other works on the CD are, amongst others, two separate solo movements from Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Étoiles for piano and orchestra, and a number of posthumously discovered works by Debussy and Messiaen. The works give an interesting historical perpective to the composers’ stylistic developments; for example, the mentioned Boulez work forms an easy-to-follow bridge between the romantic past and the new modern composing styles at that time. Debussy’s Étude sheds a light on his renewed interest in earlier composers at the end of his life, leading to his Sonatas for different instrumental combinations, and so on. Raymond Bisha has created a podcast about this release here and some buying options are given here!
Over the past months, the CD ‘Halo‘, with works for piccolo and piano played by Ilonka Kolthof and Ralph van Raat, has received rave reviews in both the national and the international press. A selection:
‘‘The performances on this recording are first rate. The ensemble playing between the two is exceptional, and the two musicians play off another creating some remarkable tone colors.’’- Flute Talk Magazine, 2020 March issue
“Kolthof impresses with alternating brilliant and lyrical playing. Pianist Ralph van Raat excels in the demanding keyboard parts.” – NRC Handelsblad ****
“Ilonka’s playing is elegant and refined, even in staccato and flutter tongue. Control is the key word, also in Ralph van Raat’s piano playing. Recommended! – FLUIT, 2020 Spring issue
“Kolthof never sounds shrill and she whispers with her instrument (…). Her partner in crime is the unparalleled Ralph van Raat, who brings to the limelight, amongst others, Jan Vriend’s Sonata with much urgency. “- De Volkskrant ****
During a festive concert in Amsterdam last Sunday, rising star piccoloist Ilonka Kolthof and Ralph have released their new CD Halo for the label TRPTK, for which Ilonka, through her Dutch Piccolo Project, has commissioned six composers to write new works for her and Ralph. In quite some anticipation of this release, Kolthof and Van Raat have appeared at radio shows before the release. These were followed by an excellent first review in yesterday’s Dutch national newspaper Volkskrant, praising the extreme diversity of musical characters, colors and virtuosity displayed in this recording: ‘[…] Ilonka Kolthof certainly did change the reputation of the piccolo in those 80 minutes! Kolthof never sounds shrill and she whispers with her instrument – so it is also possible this way. Her partner in crime is the unparalleled Ralph van Raat, who brings to the limelight, amongst others, Jan Vriend’s Sonata with much urgency.’
On November 7, a live recording of Daan Manneke‘s newest piano cycle Grote Archipel has been released by Zefir Records on CD and digital download. With each of the six movements written for specific befriended pianists (Geoffrey Madge, Kelvin Grout, Hannes Minnaar, Jelena Bazova and Daniël Kramer), the 80-years old composer has dedicated the first movement to Ralph. Manneke’s piano music is of a deeply spiritual character, influenced by, amongst others, Bach, Messiaen and Stravinsky. Besides this first movement, Ralph also recorded Manneke’s only two other piano works for this CD, Polychroon and Blues for Marcel, thereby completing this anthology of Daan Manneke’s complete piano music.