"...As much as I’ve enjoyed van Raat’s previous discs this one is really rather special. His judgment is impeccable and the playing is free of artifice or exaggeration. That, coupled with top-notch sound, makes this a mandatory purchase for all pianophiles...Richly rewarding; an ideal gateway to Koechlin’s fascinating soundscapes."
Dan Morgan - MusicWeb-International.com - July 2012
"The textures are rich ...with resonant chordal agglomerations and some decorative lines apparently meant to reflect the ornamentation of Islamic architecture. Much of it is highly approachable almost in a popular vein. Once you lock onto its wavelength, it’s hypnotically beautiful. I’ve rarely heard so effective a merging of 20th Century textures with traditional ones.Van Raat plays the music as though it were already standard repertoire, thus needed no didactic punching up. His approach also informs the work’s segments with an overall unity that’s entirely convincing. His intelligent notes are lagniappe."
Don O’Connor - American Record Guide - May 2012
"Neither composer Charles Koechlin nor his masterpiece, translated as The Persian Hours, is nearly as well known or popular as Granados’s Goyescas or Albéniz’s Iberia, let alone the music of Debussy, so they have fallen into the category of musical oddities.Enter pianist Ralph van Raat to the rescue. His recording of the suite, albeit slow-moving…has such tremendous atmosphere and a sense of presence that one is seduced into Koechlin’s world and his own interpretation within the first three minutes of the recording.Raat’s performance, as already mentioned, is both musical and fascinating in the extreme. If you love this kind of music, this is a CD you simply cannot live without."
Lynn René Bayley - Fanfare - July 2012
"Inspired by a diary kept by Pierre Loti during a trip through Persia, these “Persian Nights” not only prefigure Messiaen, just as Mompou does, but they prefigure Rautavaara, Part and Gorecki, in a way, too. Koechlin’s approach to the piano was orchestral and brilliant and busy orchestrator that he was, he orchestrated this in 1921. The continual rediscovery of Koechlin is among the ongoing musical news of our time. Performances here by Van Raat are superb."
Jeff Simon - The Buffalo News - February 2012
Performance *** Recording ****
"Koechlin has a highly individual style of piano writing that asks a lot of any pianist: terraced sonorities, widely spread chords, proto-Messiaenic harmonies, contrasted plains of colour, and a general sense of that stillness you find in hot, empty vistas. It’s good to have a bargain-price version from Naxos, and Ralph van Raat is a thoughtful interpreter. …This music is partly about the suspension of time, yet van Raat’s tempos are generally on the brisk side…when Koechlin creates a palpable sense of rhythm he is excellent, as in the dynamic build-up of ‘Le caravane’, and in the rare fast movements such as the riotous ‘A travers les rues’ and the concluding ‘Derviches dans la nuit’."
Calum MacDonald - BBC Music Magazine - March 2012
"Oriental atmospheres, recreated through cycles of day and night, are brilliantly conveyed..."
Gavin Engelbrecht - The Northern Echo - January 2012
"...The Persian Hours derives from a book, Vers Ispahan, a diary by voluptuary Pierre Loti, recounting a long journey through Persia. The individual pieces capture different times of the day, embracing two and a half days total. A Siesta before departure opens the suite, in which he dreams of a traveling caravan, music touched perhaps by Borodin. L’escalade obscure (The dark ascent) concludes the opening half-day.Broken-tone passages illuminate a hazy world of flesh and fantasy, a mix of Debussy and Bartok, Satie and Stravinsky. Magic and gamelan tones weave a luxurious tapestry of sound, soft bells and gongs, chimes and occult tambourines. The music can be percussive, but the patina Raat projects on his sonorous Steinway…never becomes harsh or ugly." ****
Gary Lemco - Audiophile Audition - February 2012
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