I am rather underwhelmed by Chamayou's Ravel, finding it a bit too laid back and mellow. However, I do not hear it as metronomic or colorless, or lacking atmosphere, as some have noted on Amazon. Quite the opposite, actually. I think Chamayou brings atmosphere and color in abundance. It never feels cold or metronomic. What it lacks, though, is impact - a sense of dynamic involvement.
After listening all through, and then sampling a second time, I could not decide whether Chamayou or Erato is to blame for the flat dynamic range. The pianissimos are breathtaking but the climaxes just never open up to reach a true climax. There is no fortissimo to be heard here. I tend to blame Erato as I am not terribly pleased with the overall recorded piano sound. This does not sound like a Steinway: it's a bit muffled, blunted and deadpan. It lacks power in the left-hand range and we are denied that exquisite, bell-like ping so characteristic of a Steinway. It is recorded in a lovely acoustic, but it lacks a feeling of bigness and majesty to the ff range.
The recording aside, I want to emphasize that this is piano playing of the highest caliber. Chamayou's technique is phenomenal. His ability to cleanly play all those horrifically difficult repeated notes is extraordinary. And he plays with much sensitivity. He does not over-pedal through difficult passages like Artur Pizarro does on his mediocre set on Linn, nor does he take egregious liberties with the letter of the score as does Lazic on his embarrassingly ridiculous smattering of excerpts for Channel.
And yet, something is missing with Chamayou. The overall sweep and soaring, rhapsodic ecstasy that is required in Ravel is curiously under played. The gorgeous Sonatine is a particularly descriptive example, where a sense of ecstatic abandon, so necessary in this music, is lacking. And in the final movement of Le Toumbeau de Couperin, a 4-minute building of tension and excitement which should raise the roof at the end, Chamayou fails to reach a dramatic climax or rise above a polite forte. It simply is not exciting. Just listen to Louis Lortie's sensational performance on Chandos to hear exactly what is missing here. Similarly in Scarbo (from Gaspard), all the notes are played miraculously, but nothing ever really happens. Chamayou does not involve us in this music as do the very best pianists.
In the end, I enjoyed listening to this set and admire Chamayou's impressive technique. However, Lortie (Chandos) and Thibaudet (Decca) surpass him every step of the way - in sheer poetry, drama, excitement, and a powerful immersion into Ravel's soundworld. Chamayou leaves us impressed with his pianism, rather than being enthralled with Ravel's creation.