Gramophone (February 2002)
Messiaen Solo Piano Works Complete

A magnificient survey of a great oeuvre from a master Messiaen interpreter

Even in these days of a vast CD catalogue‚ with small specialist companies achieving worldwide recognition‚ there can be serious failures of distribution. Until recently the French Accord label was not available in the UK: hard luck for Roger Muraro‚ who seems to record primarily for that company; harder luck for us‚ since we have been kept in ignorance of a pianist of great gifts. His recorded repertoire also includes Liszt‚ Rachmaninov and Chopin‚ and if they are on the same level as his Messiaen they could be remarkable.
Or perhaps I should speak of levels in the plural‚ since these French radio recordings were made in two different locations (the Salle Messiaen at Radio France and the auditorium of the Gennevilliers Conservatoire)‚ some with and some without an audience; these differences‚ as well as differences of microphoning‚ have affected the end result. In the Petites esquisses and the Préludes‚ for example‚ Muraro has an audience and is very closely recorded‚ so that one can hear both action noise and the pianist murmuring quietly to himself. In La Fauvette des jardins the placing of microphones is more sympathetic‚ but the presence of an audience tempts Muraro to project the tapestry of bird songs with excessive force‚ though his measured silences and his palette of colour are also both impressive.
In the Vingt Regards‚ however‚ where there seems to be no audience‚ and in the Catalogue d’oiseaux‚ where there certainly is but where the recorded sound is ideal‚ he demonstrates both formidable pianism and an outstandingly imaginative response to Messiaen’s imaginative world. In both cycles the dynamic range is wide‚ the colouring often subtly beautiful‚ the virtuosity quite breathtaking at times. As you would expect from these qualities his Cantéyodjayâ is stunning.
Is he more virtuoso than poet? Occasionally‚ and in the 18th of the Regards‚ for example (‘The Gaze of Terrible Unction’)‚ I regretted it‚ since it seemed to stand in the way of the music’s vision. But there are many passages in this cycle which respond to‚ indeed need‚ an almost Lisztian virtuosity. The huge crescendo in No 3 (‘The Exchange’) is formidably sustained‚ and in No 6 (‘By Him all was made’) nothing but tremendous brio and vitality will do‚ and Muraro supplies them in abundance. I was surprised by No 11 (‘The First Communion of the Virgin’)‚ where the cascading garlands of notes should surely be quieter; certainly the passage identifiable as ‘Messiaen’s Magnificat’ should be‚ and the whole piece could well be slower. But then the end of that piece is so beautiful‚ and the colouring of the middle section of its successor (‘The All­Powerful Word’) so exquisite‚ that one is more dismayed by the occasional failing than angered by it.
And in the Catalogue d’oiseaux the virtuoso and the poet are in ideal balance–magnificent rocky landscapes‚ vivid greens and blues!Ê–Êand the recording here is even better than in the Vingt Regards. This is an outstanding reading throughout‚ and one can only echo the audience’s applause after ‘The Wood Lark’ and their cheers at ‘Cetti’s Warbler’. I would have been on my feet and stamping after the amazingly brilliant and colourful ‘Reed Warbler’ as well. Everything else here is excellent; I was particularly taken by Muraro’s handling of those pianistic hot coals‚ the Etudes de rythme‚ the first and fourth barbarously coloured‚ the second punctiliously staccato and fascinating‚ the third quite gripping in its sheer oddity.
The two big cycles are available separately‚ two discs for the Vingt Regards (465 334­2)‚ three for the Catalogue (465 768­2). Of the two single discs‚ that combining the Préludes and La Fauvette des jardins (461 646­2) is perhaps dispensable on account of its recording‚ but 461 645­2 (the Petites esquisses‚ Etudes de rythme‚ Cantéyodjayâ and four early pieces) is highly desirable. Of other complete or near­complete recordings that by Haakon Austbø (Naxos) is consistently reliable and imaginative (and exceptional value)‚ Peter Hill’s (Unicorn­Kanchana) even more so but no longer available‚ alas. At his considerable best Muraro has a touch of agreeable steely flamboyance that is quite his own‚ and hugely effective.

Gramophone (August 2007)
Chopin recital

A sincere approach, certainly, but this pianist’s Chopin remains earthbound.

With such sizeable recorded projects as Albéniz’s Iberia, Messiaen’s Vingt Regards and Ravel’s complete piano music under his belt, Roger Muraro turns once more to Chopin. And here, as is so often the case, he finds himself on shaky ground. Never for a moment would you doubt his sincerity but his playing hardly lifts the spirits in the manner of a born Chopin pianist. True, there are intermittent successes. In the Second Sonata’s finale he allows you to hear every macabre shift of emphasis, the final pages of the Barcarolle, with their magical resolution of some near-Wagnerian progressions, are warmly committed, and so is his way with the sudden ray of light at the end of the posthumous C sharp minor Nocturne. But the Mazurkas are earthbound rather than subtle or mercurial, and in the first two movements of the Second Sonata everything is kept on a tight rein, rarely allowing the music to expand to its full range and glory. His rubato, which in a great pianist’s hands is as natural as breathing, easily becomes fitful and self-conscious, and if you get caught up in the struggle as he fights his way through the thickets of notes in the Op 22 Polonaise it is difficult not to find yourself wishing for altogether more fluent and patrician virtues. Accord’s sound is unflattering but the attractive sleeve shows Muraro lost in thought in a sylvan setting. (January 2012)
The official website of BBC Music Magazine

What an abundance of riches! Pianists who have the versatility to tackle the entirety of Messiaen’s output – from the vast religious canvass of the Vingt regards to the progressive quasi-serial world of the Études de rythme and the variegated colours of Catalogue d’oiseaux – with any success are still rare beasts. To encounter two in close succession is both illuminating and enthralling. It should be said at the outset that, as might be expected from a favoured protégé of Yvonne Loriod, Muraro is more than up to the task. His set contains many delights, from the astonishing range of colours in the more ebullient movements of Vingt regards, to the gritty, no-holds-barred approach to the Études de rythme, and from the uniquely convincing account of the musically slight Rondeau to his vibrant reading of ‘La rousserolle effarvatte’ from Catalogue d’oiseaux. The Préludes are far more than post-Debussian Impressionism, with the music revealing echoes of Ravel, Chopin, Liszt and Mussorgsky in Muraro’s hands. Much of the set is recorded live and there are substantial changes in sonorities between works. For the most part, though, the recorded sound is splendid, capturing both every nuance of the playing and a very real sense of occasion. There are some reservations, notably the reluctance to explore extremely slow tempi, so that Vingt regards apparently opens with a graceful minuet while ‘Première communion de la vierge’ lacks a sense of inner calm. Taken as a whole, though, this set is a magnificent achievement that richly rewards, indeed demands, repeated listening. Peter Hill’s recordings, made in consultation with the composer, need few introductions, having attracted choruses of praise when first released on Unicorn-Kanchana. His accounts are not merely about extraordinary pianism, but convey with profound empathy the impulses behind the music. To have this justifiably legendary set, which also includes the two-piano Visions de l’Amen, for the cost of two full-price discs is an unbelievable bargain. Hill’s set should be in every collection, but Muraro can be heartily recommended too. Rather than fighting for supremacy, these two sets complement each other perfectly. For once it is not unreasonable to suggest the Messiaen fan investing in both.

The Washington Post (February 2016)
Muraro/Liszt : Le piano de demain

A few years back, the French pianist Roger Muraro created something of a sensation with the release of Liszt’s famous but seldom-recorded transcription of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique.” Muraro believes that much of 20th-century piano music is deeply indebted to Liszt. His latest recording, “Liszt: The Piano of Tomorrow,” eloquently illustrates that point of view.

Muraro imbues the “Fantasie and Fugue on B-A-C-H,” a piece prone to blustery overplaying, with an aura of rapt mystery, including a fugue that grows sinister in its disregard of tonality. Two Wagner transcriptions, the “Spinning Song” from “The Flying Dutchman” and “Isolde’s Liebestod,” are given full orchestral dimension, without sacrificing clarity of detail or exceeding the limits of what might be sung.
Unfortunately, in some circles, the much-abused “Hungarian Rhapsodies” still give license for distortion and vulgarity. Muraro’s Tenth Rhapsody is antidotal, with a folkloristic approach suggesting the purity of Bartók. The piquant charm of the tunes is captured against a colorful background evoking the freedom and audacity of 19th-century gypsy bands. And if the tidal currents of the Strait of Messina are vividly portrayed in “St. Francis Walking on the Waves,” Muraro keeps the devout piety of Francis of Paola center stage.

But it is the B minor Sonata, a piece represented in the catalogues by about 200 recordings at any given moment, that is Muraro’s singular achievement. His interpretation combines French objectivity with a close and deeply personal reading that opens up the vast topography of this Romantic masterpiece onto vistas of rare grandeur. I can’t think of another recording more engaged or heartfelt. Muraro’s probing intelligence and keen sense of proportion allow him to bypass externals, revealing this music’s compelling humanity.

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