PCM 2: Alexandre Tharaud

Proms Chamber Music at Lunchtime

Danse villageoise
Música callada – Nos.1, 5, 6, 18 & 13
Paisajes No.2
Alborada del gracioso (Miroirs)
Une barque sur l’océan (Miroirs)
Sonata in A minor, K3
Sonata in E major, K380
Sonata in C, K514

Alexandre Tharaud (piano)

Reviewed by: Nick Breckenfield

Reviewed: 29 July, 2002
Venue: Lecture Theatre, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Young French pianist Alexandre Tharaud, with his clean-cut, preppy, schoolboy looks and neat technique, came to the Victoria & Albert’s Lecture Theatre with a programme of music mainly inspired by Spain but written by foreigners. The Italian Domenico Scarlatti provided the opening sonata for each of the three sets, with Tharaud gauging the acoustic of the venue nicely to the composer’s benefit.Strange that Bach has such prominence in the baroque keyboard panoply, whereas I would much rather substitute most Bach suites and preludes and fugues for more of the humorous and life-loving Scarlatti.

The first set continued with Chabrier’s Habanera, as Spanish as his more famous España, followed by a move back to France for his traditional Auvergne Danse villageoise. Barcelona-born Federico Mompou provided some of his quintessentially refined and still movements for the second set: although Spanish, he spent much of his life in Paris! His musical stasis was broken only in the final example as a frog splashed noisily across the pond in the second Paisajes.

More familiar territory brought the published recital to a close with the second and fourth of Ravel’s Miroirs. Only here did Tharaud’s otherwise impeccable ear allow the piano sound to distort in the close acoustic. He returned to the palette-cleansing baroque for his encores – two of Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin, shorter, more direct, and less fun than Scarlatti if a welcome return to France to end.

Tharaud was new to me, but on this showing, both his playing and his interesting programme-building marks him out as one to watch.

  • BBC Radio 3 re-broadcast Sunday, 4 August, at 1 o’clock

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