WORKS: Journal intime: Mazurkas – selection; Ballades Nos 1 & 2; Fantaisie Op. 49; Nocturnes – selection; Fantaisie-impromptu, Op. 66; Trois Ecossaises etc
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 457 8452
Alexandre Tharaud’s Chopin recordings, notably the 24 Preludes, have already established him as a leading interpreter of the composer, and this extremely personal recital more than adds to that impression. The ‘intimate journal’ is Tharaud’s own, rather than Chopin’s; he has compiled a sensitive and intuitive sequence of pieces, all of which he has played for many years and each of which holds some special significance for him. Some are standard fare, others much rarer: the Three Ecossaises, for example, skip into a prominence they’re not often accorded, while the short Largo would not seem wholly out of place in a bid to become Poland’s next national anthem.
The connections work almost seamlessly, segueing from work to work without any of the usual systematic categories of chronology, genre or anything else, but adding up to a more satisfying personal statement for that very reason. Tharaud’s recital is true in a way to the spirit of Chopin’s own programmes (as recreated recently by Alain Planès on the Harmonia Mundi label). Pieces are linked by key, finishing notes and/or starting notes, similarity or contrasting ideas; throughout this programme, the focus is inward, perhaps even introverted, yet intensely involving.
We can almost take for granted Tharaud’s virtuosity, his sensitivity of touch and his satisfying mixture of imagination, intuition and good sense. But he is extraordinary in one very special area: for him quietness speaks more than loudness, to the point that there is as much music in the silences as in the notes. Try the devastating pause before the conclusion of the Second Ballade, or the way he closes the F minor Fantaisie, sinking into a whispered one-line statement and a silence that resounds with compassion and acceptance before the last bars dissolve into a liquid catharsis. It’s breathtaking. Jessica Duchen