October 14, 2014

Alexandre Tharaud: an interview on his new album 'Jeunehomme'

The French virtuoso hints at some of the surprises he snuck into his Mozart and Haydn cadenzas.

What was the impetus for making this recording, Jeunehomme?

Tharaud: It all stems from a conversation I had... A few years ago, Bernard Labadie advised me to play the Jeunehomme concerto, which at that time wasn’t in my repertoire as I preferred the concertos from Mozart’s later years. What he said persuaded me to put it in my programme and perform it with him. I can still hear him describing the second movement, with its particularly lyrical solo part in which the piano sounds very much like a soprano voice, as a concert aria.

We performed it together for the first time and then I played it again in several different countries with a variety of conductors and orchestras. Over the years the Jeunehomme has become an iconic work for me. Recording it with this ensemble and with the conductor who helped me truly to discover it felt like the natural thing to do.

How did you decide what to put on the recording?

As well as the concerto, I recorded three pieces which are very dear to me: the fabulous Rondo in A Major which is played so rarely, Chio mi scordi di te ?, one of Mozart’s most beautiful concert arias which echoes the Andante from the Jeunehomme and is like a sort of double concerto for voice and piano.

I wanted to round off the recording in style so I thought of the lovely Haydn D-Major concerto, which is also one of my favourite concertos. These works all belong together. That’s why I had such a great time writing some of the cadenzas in which you can hear echoes of the other pieces, a sort of ricochet effect. I included themes from the first and second movements of the  Jeunehomme in the cadenzas for the Rondo and themes from the Mozart Rondo as well as a few surprises in the ones I wrote for the Haydn concerto...

How did you choose the venue and instrument for the recording?

I did the recording with my team, my little family, people I trust. We chose as the venue Domaine Forget in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, where I have been going since I was seventeen. It’s a unique place at the heart of magnificent countryside overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, peaceful and inspiring. Michaël Bargues prepared a warm and mellow Steinway — just the way I like them. Joyce came from the United States to join us one day to record Chio mi scordi di te. Her voice suits Mozart so well and is, in my view, perfect for this work. Working together was pretty emotional! We made this recording in an extremely concentrated way and with great warmth ... something I feel every time I visit Quebec.

Alexandre Tharaud's new album Jeunehomme is out now.

A new acclaimed documentary on his life and his way of hearing music, Le Temps Dérobés (Alexandre Tharaud Behind the Veil) is also now available.