CHOPIN: Waltzes (complete); MOMPOU: Valse-Evocation – Alexandre Tharaud, piano – Harmonia mundi 2901927, 61:20 ****:
HM staple artist Alexandre Tharaud turns his attention to the Chopin Waltzes in this 2006 release now re-released with a complete HM catalog included to boot. Tharaud’s playing is light and dark—the former because of touch, along with a substantially inflected sense of rubato, tasteful and most illuminating, while the latter refers to a specific coloration that results from this careful and carefully contrived traversal.
Chopin of course has been subject to the gamut of interpretative finesse, the Waltzes especially so as they are spread out over several opus numbers and are quite distinct in tone. Some sound rather parlor-ish in the good sense (as Chopin can only be taken in the good sense), and others are major concert hall numbers of great confidence and persuasion. But one makes a mistake if they come to these gems with a one-size-fits-all approach because the pieces will defeat you—they have to be taken as miniature tone poems each, with the pianist in question ready to drop all assumptions in each first bar. Tharaud is good at this, and his ability to evoke the darker side of these aural images makes this disc worth hearing sans any other considerations. This is definitely a touchy-feely recording; none of these pieces is forced down our throats. But Tharaud illuminates enough of this composer to at least make this a fine supplemental take on these tricky-to-realize pieces.
Lipatti still reigns supreme; though I have a real modern taste for Garrick Ohlsson’s recording originally on Arabeske, now just released on Hyperion Helios. His are muscular and really exciting. One cannot discard Rubinstein either. Outside of these three benchmarks I see little reason to look elsewhere unless you need a sensitive and profoundly revealing, albeit non-conformist look at these pieces, something Alexandre Tharaud provides in spades. The Mompou chestnut adds a little spice at the end.
— Steven Ritter