Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Frédéric Chopin - Préludes (Alexandre Tharaud)


Composer: Frédéric Chopin; Federico Mompou
  • (01-24) Chopin - 24 Préludes, Op. 28
  • (25) Mompou - Musicá callada No. 15 (sur le thème du prélude no. 4 de Chopin)
  • (26-28) Chopin - Trois Nouvelles Études
  • (29) Mompou - Prélude No. 9
  • (30) Chopin - Prélude in C sharp minor, Op. 45
  • (31) Chopin - Petit Prélude in A flat major
  • (32) Mompou - El lago (Le Lac)

Alexandre Tharaud, piano
Date: 2008
Label: Harmonia Mundi




The best recordings of Chopin’s Op. 28 Preludes involve strong, captivating, and individual interpretive personalities, all of whom manage to project an intense awareness of and feeling for what the composer wrote. Think of classicists such as Petri, Pollini, and Moravec, free spirits on the order of Cortot, François, Argerich, and Sokolov, or Arrau’s Janus-faced pedant and maverick. Alexandre Tharaud easily earns a place among his illustrious predecessors, while bringing his own ideas to the table.

Tharaud grabs No. 1’s agitato directive and runs away with it, making the right hand’s triplet and quintuplet groupings distinctly audible. Likewise, the pianist feels No. 2 in cut time as written, and looks the pungent left-hand dissonant clashes straight in the eye. No. 3’s quicksilver leggiero patterns are marvelously varied in articulation and color, and in No. 4, Tharaud achieves Chopin’s espressivo desire via discreet rubato and subtle textural changes within the steady left-hand chords. He teasingly prolongs No. 7’s first note, only to play the prelude simply.

Most pianists drive through No. 12’s first big climax at measure 21. Not Tharaud, who leans into the grace notes in order to underline the music’s momentary mazurka-like feeling; it’s an odd yet convincing effect. No. 16 is not so fiery and dynamic as it should be, but No. 19’s multi-hued legato results from Tharaud’s close observation of the composer’s pedal markings. No. 21’s cantabile demeanor acquires an unusual forward moving urgency that naturally dovetails into No. 22’s unrelenting agitation.

A gorgeous reading of Mompou’s miniature based on Prelude No. 4 provides a resting point from which the Three Nouvelles Etudes spring with admirable profile and specificity. Tharaud’s line-oriented deliberation in the Op. 45 C-sharp minor Prelude brings out the Bach in Chopin, or perhaps the Chopin in Brahms’ Op. 76 No. 1 Capriccio? Incidentally, the Steinway grand Tharaud uses for these sessions conveys a vibrant, slightly twangy and characterful sound, ideally captured in warm, ample, and closely detailed engineering. Even if you already own a reference Chopin Preludes edition, seriously consider this most stimulating and rewarding release–delectable Mompou tidbits, artsy cover photo and all. [3/17/2008]

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / SOUND: *****


Frédéric Chopin (22 February or 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era who wrote primarily for the solo piano. He gained and has maintained renown worldwide as one of the leading musicians of his era, whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation". Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest superstars, his association (if only indirect) with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying degrees of historical accuracy.


Alexandre Tharaud (born 9 December 1968 in Paris) is a French pianist. He is active on the concert stage and has released a large and diverse discography. He entered the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 14 where he won first prize for piano in the class of Germaine Mounier when he was 17 years old. With Theodor Paraskivesco, he mastered the piano, and he sought and received advice from Claude Helffer, Leon Fleisher and Nikita Magaloff. In 2012, Tharaud took part in the French film Amour by Michael Haneke where he played himself.


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