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Encores by Bach, Chopin, Fauré, Grieg, Poulenc, Scarlatti and others
see end of review for full track-listing
Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
rec. January and April, 2013, Salle Colonne, Paris WARNER ERATO 9341372 [69:21]
Though Alexandre Tharaud has taped a few of these pieces before, don’t make the - possibly understandable - mistake of thinking that this disc scoops up previous recordings. They are recorded afresh in the Salle Colonne alongside those other pieces new to his discography. They together form a well-balanced recital that explores pianistic loves and affections.
Each is stamped with Tharaud’s very distinctive musical persona and will give his many admirers pleasure. Taken in isolation, perhaps there are more problematic concerns interpretatively. His Bach-Siloti Prelude is much more lingering and self-conscious than the recording by Hamish Milne on Hyperion CDA67506, draped as it is in an aural bath. I’m rather disappointed by his baroque pieces: his Rameau is rhythmically plastic, wholly pianistic which is fair enough - but lacks the wit, elegance and style of Marcelle Meyer, whilst the famous Couperin piece lacks her deftness and lyricism. Tharaud introduces a jerky, even bullish note to it, a feature that is apt to recur throughout the recital. His Scarlatti sounds unconvincing.
I appreciate that Tharaud clearly prefers the Siloti arrangement of the Gluck to the Sgambati but when one hears the latter arrangement played by Egon Petri, one must surely feel the former fussy and stuffed with too much left hand harmony. Tharaud sometimes has a tendency to distend passages, often lyrical ones – he does so in the Grieg – whereas sometimes, as in his Tailleferre Valse lente he can sound brusque. Compare Aldo Ciccolini’s slower, infinitely more loving, stylistically aware and properly ‘lente’ performance (LDV13).
The Chopin Waltz sways and splinters - animated by some very divisive left-hand accents - whilst his Rachmaninov is not really rapturous enough.
Well, this is a long list of things to which I respond negatively or at least equivocally. But he has a lovely, warm tone, that’s for sure, and his Fauré Romance sans paroles is highly effective as is the Tchaikovsky Nocturne. Mendelssohn’s Song without Words is very pleasant, but pleasant is not enough when Ignaz Friedman’s 1930 recording is around. The humour in Oscar Strasnoy’s Tourbillon is welcome, though somewhat heavy-handed, the melancholy Poulenc much better. He paints a very different picture of Mompou’s El Lago than the composer himself in his more ascetic 1974 recording.
I know this sounds picky: in fact it is picky but if you select pieces such as these you must expect to be judged against the most sensitive and exciting of performers. Tharaud, very properly, has his own view but as yet I don’t feel he is a settled artist. He is too wilful and inclined to point-making; rhythms often sound unnatural; harmonies are promoted to the detriment of the shape of phrases. As I said, his admirers will lap this up. Me, I’ll stick to Meyer, Friedman, Petri and Ciccolini.
Full track-listing Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prélude in B minor (arr. Siloti) [3:02] Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Romance sans paroles No. 3 [2:25] Jean-Philippe RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Les Sauvages [2:04] Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)
Dance of the blessed spirits (arr. Siloti) [3:15] Sergei RACHMANINOFF (1873-1943)
Prelude in C sharp minor, Op 3 No 2 [4:08] Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Nocturne No. 4 [3:37] Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)
Wedding-day in Troldhaugen [5:39] Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Valse triste, Op 44 No 1 [4:07] Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
Prelude for the left hand, Op 9 No 1 [2:24] Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Romance sans paroles, Op 67 No 2 [1:59] Frédéric CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz Op 64 No 1 [1:50] Camille SAINT-SAENS (1835-1921)
Le cygnet (arr. Godowsky) [2:49] François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Le Tic-Toc-Choc ou Les Maillotins [2:33] Emmanuel CHABRIER (1841-1894)
Feuillet d’album [1:56] Domenico SCARLATTI (1685-1757)
Sonata in D minor, K141 [3:34] Georges BIZET (1838-1875)
Adagietto, from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1 (arr. Tharaud) [2:34] Ignacio CERVANTES (1847-1905)
Adios a Cuba [1:51] Oscar STRASNOY (b.1970)
Tourbillon [2:16] Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Mélancolie [5:23] Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
El Lago [4:14] Germaine TAILLEFERRE (1892-1983)
Valse lente [1:35] Erik SATIE (1866-1925)
Gymnopédie No. 3 [2:48] VIVALDI/BACH (re-arr. Tharaud)
Andante from concerto BWV979 [3:17]