YouTube will never cease to amaze – there is actually a recording of the Ravel Piano Trio with Sviatoslav Richter of all people, here with Oleg Kagan on violin and Natalia Gutman on cello, live at the Moscow Conservatory in 1983. And what a performance, wow. It’s honestly breathtaking.
The only recording I own of the piece is the justly famous one from the Beaux Arts Trio. This performance has the same immaculate taste and tenderness, but also it brings a truly thrilling realization of that climactic moment starting at around 5:25. You really feel Richter’s sheer power as a pianist there.
Ravel began the piece early in 1914 and finished it a month after the start of the War. “I am weeping over my sharps and flats,” he wrote in a letter as he was nearing the end.
It was his only work in the genre, and a masterpiece.
The first movement’s first subject was inspired by a Basque dance rhythm (Ravel’s mother was Basque) – although written in 8, each measure subdivides 3 + 2 + 3.
The remaining three movements also can be found on YouTube.