Album review: Inon Barnatan, 'Darknesse Visible'

Inon Barnatan
San Francisco Chronicle

By Joshua Kosman

Both the title and the overall theme of this ingenious new recital disc by Israeli-born pianist Inon Barnatan derive from Thomas Adès' 1992 meditation on the music of the Renaissance lutenist and songsmith John Dowland. Adès' masterpiece is a study in the intersection of melody and keyboard textures, taking Dowland's tune and distributing it amid a welter of evocative figuration, and it makes a splendid centerpiece for both Ravel's "Gaspard de la nuit" and Debussy's "Suite bergamasque," which do something similar - or at least, so it seems in Barnatan's slyly colored renditions. His touch is both shimmery and full of fire, and in the Ravel especially he brings a sort of low-key virtuosity to the music that is welcome; the interplay of the composer's swirling accompaniment patterns and pointed melodies is rendered particularly well. Barnatan is perhaps a little brusque in Ravel's "La Valse," which concludes the disc, but he leavens that with a finely etched account of Ronald Stevenson's Fantasy on Britten's "Peter Grimes."