Alexandre Tharaud

Alexandre Tharaud Plays Scarlatti

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Alexandre Tharaud's 2011 album of Domenico Scarlatti's keyboard sonatas may serve as a reasonable introduction for newcomers to this music, but listeners who have more experience with these distinctive pieces will look elsewhere for a satisfying version. Tharaud follows a long line of pianists who have interpreted the sonatas by way of the modern piano, and like many of his predecessors, he plays them with a fully modern technique, including the use of the pedals and a nearly full range of dynamics and sonorities. His style of playing has supporters, and those who like their Scarlatti to sound up-to-date -- perhaps more like Tharaud's Chopin or Debussy, or even like Poulenc in a Baroque vein -- can be sure they'll enjoy this disc. However, the need to be au courant puts Tharaud at odds with more historically aware pianists who strive for appropriate interpretations yet emulate the sound of the harpsichord by playing without pedals and employing more restricted attacks and colors. Listeners who seek out Scarlatti recordings on harpsichord will find the textures to be more transparent and the harmonies more piquant and novel, and the quirkiness of Scarlatti's phrasing and abrupt rhythmic changes will be readily apparent. Tharaud's audience will like his highly personal interpretations, which can be best described as expressive and richly hued, but others will have reason to find more idiomatic period alternatives.

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