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Alexandre Tharaud’s disc of French Baroque composers is full of ever-surprising delights. Sadly mis-cast in late Beethoven, Tharaud returns to home ground, offering what he calls a ‘bouquet’ of widely varying composers. As he relays in the accompanying booklet, such music is rarely played on modern instruments and much of it has never been recorded. For Tharaud, it is impossible to interpret Saint-Saëns, Debussy or Ravel without reference to Couperin and Rameau. He reminds us that Chopin played Rameau and that Royer’s La Marche des Scythes anticipates Chabrier’s exuberance.

Such verbal insight and enthusiasm are mirrored in superb performances of the music, be they frisky or plaintive, poetic or pungent, gloriously dismissive of convention or expectation. In Rameau’s Gavotte et doubles he employs the widest variety of touch and colour, revelling in the resources of a modern piano, while in the same composer’s Viens, Hymen he is joined by silvery-voiced Sabine Devieilhe. Elsewhere he pays tribute to Marcelle Meyer, who first inspired his love of this magical corner of the repertoire. Finely recorded and presented, this is an elusive but ideal Christmas gift.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica

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