Alexandre Tharaud Nouvelles Suites Review

Released 2005.  

BBC Review

Leaves you with great respect for the Frenchman's musicality and technical facility.

John Armstrong 2002

Rameau on the piano?! But nobody plays this sort of early 18th century French harpsichord music on the modern grand, surely...not in public at any rate!

Well, there are precedents - including Marcelle Meyer on record - and after this new cd from Alexandre Tharaud, I hope there'll be a whole lot more. Tharaud's approach is intelligent and imaginative; there are inevitably problems to solve, and perhaps the most important are issues of tempo and ornamentation. For the harpsichordist the ornaments, the trills and extra notes, are partly there to prolong the note, to emphasise it or give it a certain colour, and on the piano that can be done with the instruments natural sustain and dynamic range. So the ornamentation has to be different, lighter, so as not to seem crude or over-emphatic. It takes a few minutes, but Tharaud's touch and his way with the ornaments feels right, and they start to seem quite natural and idiomatic.

In terms of tempo, you could take things more slowly on the piano than a harpsichord allows...it's the sustain again. But Tharaud doesn't fall into the trap of over-compensating, and in Rameau's delicious Sarabandes he's never too slow; the spirit of the original is there yet with the sonorous beauty of his Steinway. You come away from the recording of these two complete suites with great respect for the young Frenchman's musicality and technical facility, and even greater respect for Rameau's imagination and harmonic invention, which is exactly as it should be. Adding Debussy's Hommage à Rameau as an encore is a nice touch as well.

These days playing Bach on the modern concert grand is perfectly acceptable; maybe it's time we added a few earlier composers to the list? I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that Tharaud is Rameau's Glenn Gould, but the comparison is intriguing...

Andrew McGregor - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3

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