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Alexandre Tharaud plays Couperin ~ tic, toc, choc
Francois Couperin, Jacques Duphly, Alexandre Tharaud
Alexandre Tharaud plays Couperin ~ tic, toc, choc
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (20) - Disc #1

The title refers to a piece Alexandre Tharaud plays often as an encore, and it's an apt (and catchy) introduction to this wide-ranging selection of Francois Couperin?s works originally written for the harpsichord. Couperin...  more »


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All Artists: Francois Couperin, Jacques Duphly, Alexandre Tharaud
Title: Alexandre Tharaud plays Couperin ~ tic, toc, choc
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Harmonia Mundi (France)
Original Release Date: 1/1/2007
Re-Release Date: 5/8/2007
Album Type: Import
Genre: Classical
Styles: Chamber Music, Forms & Genres, Rondos, Short Forms, Historical Periods, Baroque (c.1600-1750), Classical (c.1770-1830), Instruments, Keyboard
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 794881834426

The title refers to a piece Alexandre Tharaud plays often as an encore, and it's an apt (and catchy) introduction to this wide-ranging selection of Francois Couperin?s works originally written for the harpsichord. Couperin arranged such short pieces into Ordres, or suites and Tharaud has fashioned his own suite made up of those most amenable to the modern piano. As such, it?s a wonderful followup to his earlier disc of Rameau and an example of the adaptability of French Baroque keyboard music to the modern instrument that should please all but the most die-hard devotees of "authentic" instruments. If anything, the richer timbres, varied colors, and dynamic capabilities of Tharaud?s concert grand yield greater accessibility to Couperin?s delightful miniatures, none lasting much more than five minutes. These gems are played with fleet-fingered accuracy and imagination. The popular Musette de Taverni gains from overdubbing, and the addition of the tambour to Bruit de Guerre is a delightful touch. As an encore to Couperin?s 19 pieces, Tharaud closes with Duphly?s La Pothouin, a lovely work that induces thoughts of Romantic era keyboard poets. A wholly successful recital, yielding over an hour of pure enchantment. -- Dan Davis

CD Reviews

Piece to musics
djg | boulder,CO | 11/09/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"came across Tharaud's Bach recording by chance... a revelation; now his selection of Couperin pieces which is the same; I knew them only as a purist ie played on period harpsichords ;loved it from the first listen;fine fingered without being gooey-soppy, full of moods you can feel even without looking at the name of the piece;all in finesse and mastered delicacy without foppishness. a delight to the ears
Another winner from Alexandre Tharaud
Discophage | France | 05/26/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"While Bach and Scarlatti have always been accepted territory for pianists, I wonder why this hasn't been the case with Haendel, Rameau and Couperin. There have been a few exceptions, of course - in Haendel NOT Gould, as he recorded it for once on a heavy, thumping harpsichord (Handel: Harpsichord Sonatas Nos. 1-4; Bach: Preludes & Fugues, BWV 878 & 883), but Eric Heidsieck on the small French label Cassiopée; for Rameau and Couperin, Marcelle Meyer in 1946 and 1953-5 (Volume. 2-Les Introuvables De Marcelle Meyer), Jean Casadesus, Robert's son, who died tragically young in an auto accident (1954, Jean & Robert Casadesus - Ravel, Bach, Rameau, Couperin, Poulenc, Françaix, Tailleferre, R. Casadesus, D. Scarlatti, and Cziffra (Rendez-vous de Senlis). Robert Casadesus also did a little Rameau in 1952 (Robert Casadesus: Rameau, Scarlatti, Mozart, Haydn) and Thérèse Dussaut recorded the complete keyboard output at the end of the 1970s (only samples of these 5 LPs have been reissued on CD). But these were precisely that: exceptions. One answer, of course, would be that these composers' keyboard music is inferior in quality to Bach's and Scarlatti's. I do not buy that at all. I've recently heard a Haendel disc by Varam Mardirossian on the French label Intrada, and it is marvelous (apparently it is not yet listed on this site but you'll find it on the French sister company, under ASIN B0002OVQE8). Is it "inferior" or "equal" to Bach is a consideration that I find entirely spurious: the pleasure it procures has been, for me, certainly equal to what I feel when listening to Bach's Partitas or French and English Suites. So for Haendel my suggestion would be that the relative neglect of his keyboard works results from the fact that they wern't as central to his oeuvre as they were to Bach's. But Rameau, Couperin?

Is it then that the specific way these composers have written for the harpsichord doesn't lend itself as well as Bach or Scarlatti to the single manual piano? In the interview contained in the liner notes, Tharaud does mention that he's chosen to play not complete suites ("Ordres" is what Couperin calls them) but to concentrate on the most "pianistic " individual movements therefrom - implying that some wouldn't sound so good on the modern instrument. Still I find the idea very dubious. Bach's Goldbergs for instance are noted for the problems they pose to pianists who do not have at their disposal the harpsichord's two keyboards, and there are hand-crossings in Scarlatti I think that must be much the same. And every pianist is free to do with Couperin like every pianist who recorded it: compose his own selection with the most "pianistic" pieces.

So maybe it is only a question of pump priming. Maybe it needs so many pianists to play and record that repertoire to impress it on the community of pianists that this is great music that sounds marvelously on the instrument. Maybe Marcelle Meyer and Jean Casadesus and Cziffra simply weren't enough.

Whatever the reasons, Tharaud demonstrates with a vengeance, five years after his superb Rameau recording (Alexandre Tharaud plays Rameau), that the generations of pianists who have passed on Couperin are fools, and have deprived themselves and the music lovers of hours of unalloyed pleasure. Hearing Couperin on the piano is an exhilarating revelation. At the risk of getting much flak from the lovers of the harpsichord, I'll make no bones that in the ever-festering controversy between "authentic" harpsichord versus "unauthentic" piano, I unhesitatingly categorize myself among the aficionados of the piano. Not that I reject the harpsichord, and I even genuinely enjoy Scarlatti's dazzling virtuosity on the instrument, but I hear so much more in the piano! It is "unauthentic"? Sure! But it brings out so many colors that the rattling harpsichord barely hints at! And if I thought the music sounded better in a transcription for kazoo ensemble, I'd be all for it. In "Il cimento del piacere e dell'autenticità", piacere wins hands down and way before the end of first round.

Because they are short and playful, the pieces chosen by Tharaud are evocative of Scarlatti I find, but they are often much more descriptive and evocative. In Bruit de Guerre (Noises of War, track 14) he goes so far as to add a side drum to emulate, the dynamic range of the piano helping, the typical orchestral war music of those days. Some of these pieces are so beautifully poetic and inventive I would cry, from gratefulness to the composer for having produced them and the pianist for bringing them back alive (Le Carillon de Cithère, track 7, Musète de Taverni track 8, which is written for 5 hands and which Tharaud plays alone, overdubbing himself). And save for the ornamentation, if on a blind test you told me that Les barricades mistérieuses (track 1) had been written by Schumann, I'd probably believe it. Tharaud has a marvelous touch, lyrical without milking it in the slow and meditative numbers (La Couperin track 3, Les ombres errantes track 5) and with a fine staccato in the more bouncy pieces (Le Tic-toc choc track 2, Les Calotines track 4, Les Tours de passe-passe track 13) that is never hard or dry as Gould in Bach can sometimes be. There is an acknowledgement on the back cover page of the liner notes in which Tharaud thanks "all my friends harpsichordists for our valuable exchanges". Indeed, you can feel that Tharaud has given lots of consideration to the modes of playing on the original instrument and how it can be rendered on the modern Grand. The program is well composed, alternating between fast-playful and slow-dreamy, and TT is 65:18. Informative liner notes, fine cover art and inside photos (close ups of Tharaud's hands in strange positions, likening them to some modern sculpture). The only "wish for more" one could have would be a second Couperin disc.

Hark, pianists and music lovers, if you have the scores or CDs of Bach and Scarlatti in your library, you have no excuse now for not adding Couperin (and Haendel, and Rameau).

Monsieur Tharaud, merci.
Couperin was not among my favourite composers... until now
Juan C. Garay | Bogota, Colombia | 03/14/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"It's not that I dislike the harpsichord but ... I never thought i'd find Couperin's keyboard music so interesting until I heard it played on a modern piano. To my ears, it gains in strength and colour. Thank you monsieur Tharaud for such a delightful and revelatory experience."