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Friday, July 31, 2020

Various Composers - Versailles (Alexandre Tharaud)


  1. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Prélude (from Premier Livre de pièces de clavecin: Suite in A minor)
  2. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Le Rappel des oiseaux (from Pièces de clavecin: Suite in E minor)
  3. Robert de Visée - Sarabande (from Livre de pièces pour la guitare: Suite No. 9 in D minor)
  4. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Tambourin (from Pièces de clavecin: Suite in E minor)
  5. Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer - L'Aimable (from Premier Livre de pièces pour clavecin)
  6. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Gavotte et doubles (from Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin: Suite in A minor)
  7. Jean-Henri d'Anglebert - Sarabande 'Dieu des Enfers' (after Jean-Baptiste Lully's La Naissance de Vénus, in Pièces de clavecin)
  8. Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer - La Marche des Scythes (from Premier Livre de pièces pour clavecin)
  9. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Aria: 'Viens, Hymen' (Phani) (from Les Indes galantes)
  10. Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer - Premier et Deuxième Tambourins (from Premier Livre de pièces pour clavecin)
  11. François Couperin - Les Ombres errantes (from Quatrième Livre de pièces de clavecin: Ordre 25ème de clavecin in E flat)
  12. Jacques Duphly - La Pothouïn (from Quatrième Livre de pièces de clavecin)
  13. Jean-Philippe Rameau - Les Sauvages (from Nouvelles suites de pièces de clavecin: Suite in G)
  14. Jean-Henri d'Anglebert - Chaconne [from Pièces in C]
  15. Jean-Henri d'Anglebert - Ouverture de Cadmus (after Lully's Cadmus et Hermione, in Pièces de clavecin)
  16. François Couperin - Passacaille (from Deuxième Livre de pièces de clavecin: Ordre 8ème de clavecin in B minor)
  17. Jean-Henri d'Anglebert - Fugue grave pour orgue (in Pièces de clavecin)
  18. Jacques Duphly - La de Belombre (from Troisième Livre de pièces de clavecin)
  19. Jean-Baptiste Lully - Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs (from the comédie-ballet Le Bourgeois gentilhomme)
  20. Claude Balbastre - La Suzanne (from Premier Livre de pièces de clavecin)
  21. Jean-Henri d'Anglebert - Variations sur Les Folies d'Espagne (in Pièces de clavecin)

Alexandre Tharaud, piano
Date: 2019
Label: Erato



Alexandre Tharaud loves a themed disc and ‘Versailles’ is a typically personal exploration of the glories of the French Baroque keyboard tradition. He doesn’t let the fact that some of this music is inherently unpianistic get in his way and in the booklet interview points out that he is part of a long line of French pianists borrowing from the harpsichord oeuvre, and rightly pays generous tribute to Marcelle Meyer in particular.

It’s a beautifully programmed disc – so much so that it begs to be heard complete. And the sense that he has lived with this music for a long time is abundantly apparent: readers may recall his discs of Rameau and François Couperin from the early 2000s and there’s some overlap with this new offering, which makes for fascinating comparisons.

His sense of characterisation and fine detailing is everywhere apparent, be it the treasurable whispered runs in the de Visée Sarabande, the velvety textures of Duphly’s La Pothouïn or the daringly dreamy L’Aimable by Royer. Even for aficionados of this repertoire there are surprises to be had alongside such favourites as Rameau’s Tambourin (which never feels straitjacketed by its accentuation as it can do in less imaginative performances).

He can take us to extremes in successive tracks, from the complete inwardness of d’Anglebert’s Dieu des Enfers Sarabande to Royer’s La marche des Scythes, in which the piano’s inability to create the harpsichord’s haze of overtones as it breaks into virtuoso figuration doesn’t matter, for Tharaud instead conjures atmosphere through his subtle pedalling and the result is the equal of that wondrous harpsichord recording made by Christophe Rousset back in 1991. Tharaud then springs another surprise, with Rameau’s ‘Viens, Hymen’ from Les Indes galantes, for which he is joined by Sabine Devieilhe, whose supple and light soprano is matched by keyboard-playing of great delicacy. He is also joined by the pianist Justin Taylor for an uproarious four-hand arrangement of Rameau’s Les Sauvages by Léon Roques, which makes great play of the piece’s contrasting registers.

François Couperin’s Les ombres errantes is another essay in subtlety, though I do wonder if it’s just a little too slow compared to his earlier recording, which flows more naturally. On the other hand, the same composer’s Passacaille is even more striking this time round: here, a slower pace emphasises its grandeur and the sheer novelty of the harmonic pattern on which it is built. The intensity continues through the d’Anglebert organ Fugue, with Duphly’s La de Belombre delightfully puncturing the sombre mood, and sounding positively skittish in Tharaud’s hands. Balbastre’s La Suzanne is another harpsichord showpiece that initially looks very unpromising on the piano but Tharaud, undaunted, brings it gleefully to life, a tour de force of colour and shifting contrasting moods.

Tharaud ends with d’Anglebert’s variations on the popular tune Les folies d’Espagne, with the composer exploiting its rhythmic possibilities as much as the ornamental and textural ones. It ends a life affirming disc in suitably upbeat fashion.

-- Harriet Smith, Gramophone


Alexandre Tharaud (born 9 December 1968 in Paris) is a French pianist. Tharaud 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. After winning several prizes at international competitions, his career developed quickly in Europe as well as in North America and Japan. Tharaud is active on the concert stage and has released a large and diverse discography.


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