November 29, 2015

Tharaud speaks about playing at the memorial to victims of the Paris attacks

Natalie Dessay and Alexandre Tharaud gave an emotional tribute in song during Friday's official ceremony.

His solo recital of The Goldberg Variations in the glorious acoustic of the Philharmonie de Paris on 23 November was a triumph, tinged nonetheless with the feeling of tragedy. The same week, he received a phone call from the French Minister of Culture requesting he play at the official memorial for the victims of the Friday 13th terror attacks, in the presence of President  Hollande and the families of the deceased and wounded.

Another iconic French artist, soprano Natalie Dessay, was enlisted to sing.  Tharaud instantly began to prepare an arrangement of Barbara's Perlimpinpin. “There is no song more appropriate for this tribute,” he told Le Figaro, “These are the words of a great artist incensed, opposing war and weapons with tenderness and heart…This song is about going towards ‘the other’ with arms outstretched, to understand and to love the other.”

Tharaud requested the same piano on which he had recorded The Goldberg Variations for his latest album: “a sublime piano that I’m very comfortable playing.” Tharaud and Dessay rehearsed together the night before the ceremony on 27 November and arrived at Les Invalides at 6am the following morning. As she took the stage, Dessay whispered to the pianist that "she was afraid she might break down."

Their tribute played its part in an historic moment. Tharaud acknowledges the solace of music in the face of tragedy and grief. “As a performer, I can be a bandaid, that is to say that by playing the music of Bach, I can make people forget for a few seconds about pain and suffering. If I can be a balm through music, dress a wound, I have a reason to live.”