The soulful portrait of Anna Vinnitskaya on her new Ravel recital catches the almost alarming intensity of the performances therein. Last year, the Russian pianist gave us breathtaking Prokofiev and Ravel concertos; now she is in more intimate surroundings, meticulously captured by producer Philipp Nedel.

Ravel's Pavane for a Dead Princess sets up a beguiling calm. Vinnitskaya creates a dreamy languor, with a sensuality that makes one feel like chiding veteran pianist Alfred Cortot for dismissing the piece's "slightly syrupy charm".

The 1925 Miroirs is the soul of subtlety. Moths flutter with just the right Ravelian articulation while birds give out their mournful songs in the sort of mists that only come through immaculate pedalling.

The 1908 Gaspard de la Nuit contains three of Ravel's most sharply etched evocations. The beautifully mediated flow of Vinnitskaya's opening Ondine would have impressed the great Vlado Perlemuter, for whom the composer wrote the advice "more melting" on the score of this piece.


Ravel regretted not having orchestrated the final Scarbo but, such are the colours that emerge from Vinnitskaya's Steinway, he need not have worried.

Few classical recordings come with a language warning, but James Rhodes' Jimmy, a concert in Brighton's Old Market Theatre last December, has such a cautionary note on its sleeve. While Nigel Kennedy's cheeky stage banter survives only in the memories of concert-goers, Rhodes' chatter is only as far away as your CD player.

So, in among the obligatory expletives, you can shudder at Rachmaninov's music being extolled as faster and cheaper than Prozac and throw your eyes to the ceiling when Bach is described as shagging his way around the country like a Baroque Keith Richards.

Inevitably, all this somewhat taints the music that it introduces, which is mainly on the light side, designed for what the pianist describes as "classical first-timers".

Apart from a serviceable Waldstein Sonata, Rhodes comes up with some curiosities, including a terminally trivial Moszkowski Etude and a noisy gallop through Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King that, judging by audience reaction, is right on target.

Anna Vinnitskaya: Ravel (Naive)
Stars: 5/5

James Rhodes: Jimmy (Signum, both through Ode Records)
Stars: 3/5

Verdict: Piano music for aficionados and first-timers