Tharaud plays Rachmaninov (Erato)
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French pianist Alexandre Tharaud first performed Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 when he was just a kid. Even then, he says he was already thinking about making this recording. "Rachmaninoff's a composer that you love when you're a teenager and when you're learning to be a virtuoso pianist," Tharaud says through French translator Terry Blain. "When you're at the conservatory and learning piano, he's like a drug in a way. It's pianist's music. But I don't find it's actually terribly difficult music. Mozart is actually much more difficult to play than Rachmaninoff because there are things in music that are a lot more difficult than just technical difficulties."
Initially it was the concerto's technically virtuosity that appealed to Alexandre. Over the years, though, he's learned to appreciate the dark shadows, the sense of despair, of staring into the abyss. "You can play a piece by Rachmaninoff … you can play it 200 times and still be making new discoveries at the 200th time," Tharaud says. "And then there's also the physical side of things — your hands change. And there are things in Rachmaninoff I play much better now than when I was a teenager. And there are some things I find harder now than when I was a teenager. But at my age, you definitely don't interpret Rachmaninoff like you did when you were a student. I think over time your experience with the music means you go directly for what is essential in it."
With the release of this new Rachmaninov disc, Tharaud now has 35 recordings to his credit. What he's enjoyed most about this new release is working with Alexander Vedernikov and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. "The trouble is, when you listen to a recording, you hear everything which isn't quite right and you're too analytical," Tharaud admits. "But when you're doing a collaboration … and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra … they're an absolutely fabulous orchestra, really professional. And when you start the first rehearsal and everything is already note perfect. And I had a conductor who is possibly the greatest Rachmaninoff specialist currently working."
Alexandre Tharaud's mother was a dancer with the Paris Opera. His father was an opera singer. Perhaps that's why Alexandre believes the piano is an instrument that wants to imitate the human voice. A pianist, he explains, is someone who spends his entire life pursuing the human voice. Rachmaninov felt much the same way. That's why he composed the, "Vocalise," which is heard on this recording in its original form for soprano, with Sabine Devieilhe performing.
You'll also discover a youthful work by Rachmaninov on this recording, which Alexandre says already offered a clear picture of what this composer had to offer. "The Morceaux de Fantasies are youthful works, but what's fascinating is that Rachmaninoff is already fully Rachmaninoff," Alexandre says. "He's already a complete artist, he's already a visionary and he already writes beautifully for the piano.
"I've wanted to make this Rachmaninoff record for a long time," Alexandre continues, "but the problem when you're a classical pianist is that the repertoire is absolutely huge. So, if you make one record a year, that's already quite a lot. But it's an infinitesimally small amount of what you'd like to record. The other thing is, I'm at a time in my life when I'm 48 years old and I'm increasingly turning to works that I think are really pillars of the repertoire."
With the release of his most recent recording, Tharaud plays Rachmaninov, pianist Alexandre Tharaud invites you into his childhood dream.
Many thanks to Terry Blain for his French translation on this week's show.
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ResourcesAlexandre Tharaud - official site
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchstra - official site
Sabine Devieilhe - official site
Tharaud plays Rachmaninov - (Amazon)