Chopin, Mompou

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Chopin,Mompou
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Chopin, Mompou
WORKS: Chopin 24 Preludes, Op. 28; Prelude in C sharp minor, Op. 45; Petit Prélude in A flat; Mompou; Música callada No. 15; Prelude No. 9; El Lago
PERFORMER: Alexandre Tharaud (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901982

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Conceiving the 24 Preludes as an uninterrupted whole, and complementing them with some all-too-rare Mompou miniatures, Alexandre Tharaud has recorded a breathtaking disc – even though, like most strong personalities, it won’t be to every listener’s taste. His performance of the Preludes is unified by a sinister sub-surface atmosphere, which he describes in the notes as ‘shot through with violence and death’ – but this comes through so strongly in his performance that he scarcely needed to say so outright. This is intelligent playing that matches its clarity with perception and sensitivity, and variety of touch with sonic beauty (try the G major Prelude No. 3 for pointillist detail and songful lyricism delivered simultaneously). Tharaud is unfailingly responsive to melodic nuance and seems to relish every new twist of the texture. But there’s also immense power when the dark energy beneath is unleashed, as in the G minor, No. 22, and, overwhelmingly, in the closing D minor which comes over as an apocalyptic anthem. Perhaps the preludes that normally provide moments of repose could have been permitted to do so; for instance, the A flat major Prelude, more usually a tender song-without-words, is loud, tense and as upsetting as a runaway heart-beat. Still, it’s done convincingly, not out of arrogance; Tharaud’s concept plumbs the depths of Chopin’s musical psyche with humility. Mompou’s tributes to Chopin are interspersed with the shorter Chopin works and offer some fascinating perspective – as unsettling in their own way as Chopin’s own, they are a brilliant and original touch to an already brilliant and original performance. Jessica Duchen