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Briefly Noted: Tharaud's Encores

available at Amazon
Autograph (Encores), A. Tharaud

(released on November 19, 2013)
Last week, I mentioned Alexandre Tharaud's special concert residency at the Cité de la Musique this week. The French pianist's new CD, Autograph, arrived in the mail recently, and the official release date is today. In most cases, such a recording of favorite encores is nothing more than the self-indulgence of a star musician. As usual, even under those circumstances, Tharaud delivers something that is instead thoughtful and mostly devoid of overly familiar chestnuts (a Rachmaninoff prelude, op. 3/2, and Chopin's Minute Waltz aside). There are a couple favorites from Tharaud's past, like Rameau's Les Sauvages, Couperin's Le Tic-Toc-Choc, and a Scarlatti sonata (K. 141): Tharaud has described the disc as a sort of self-portrait through the lens of his own discography. Many pieces, perhaps too many, are of the dreamy, sugary melodic variety -- Tchaikovsky's op. 19/4 nocturne, Fauré's Romance sans paroles, Sibelius's Valse triste, Satie's third Gymnopédie, Poulenc's Mélancolie, Mompou's El Lago -- but this sort of piece is so squarely in Tharaud's wheelhouse that it is hard to complain about their inclusion. The surprises are the best part -- the frantic celebration of Grieg's Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, the homesickness of Adios a Cuba by Ignacio Cervantes, the prancing dissonance of Oscar Strasnoy's Tourbillon -- and, of course, there is Tharaud's crisp and joyous Bach, which bookends the disc. The only thing one misses is hinted at in this radio interview (en français): Tharaud loves to improvise, which is another reason he thinks that having a piano in his apartment would put him at risk of doing nothing but playing for his own own amusement. A Tharaud improvisation would have been just the thing to give the final punch to this pleasing little disc.

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