20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Pianist Alexandre Tharaud

Classic Arts Features   20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS WITH: Pianist Alexandre Tharaud
With his knack for creative programming and a keen ear for sonority, French pianist Alexandre Tharaud is gaining a reputation as an artist of rare distinction. He contributes to the latest installment of "20 (Plus) Questions."


While known for his deeply personal interpretations of the great keyboard repertoire, especially the music of Rameau, Couperin, Bach and Chopin, Tharaud’s adventurous approach to programming has also resulted in a number of commissions and premieres. 
A graduate from the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris, Tharaud has developed an international following through a number of highly acclaimed recordings. He debuted on Virgin Classics with an all-Chopin album called Journal Intime.

In June, his second recording for the label, featuring sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, was named one of NPR Music’s Top 25 Albums for the first half of 2011. NPR’s classical music producer, Tom Huizenga, observed: “Tharaud's touch is multifaceted — sparkling sunlight, delicate lace, rivulets of melody and…showers of cross-handed notes sprayed in many directions.” In October, Virgin Classics will release his new recording of J.S. Bach’s Piano Concertos with conductor Bernard Labadie and Les Violons du Roy.

As readers will soon discover, Tharaud leaves a few of our 20 questions unanswered, though he does provide an intriguing suggestion for a bonus question.


1. A few works of classical music that you adore:

Bach: Goldberg Variations; Mahler Symphonies; Wagner’s Parsifal, Puccini’s La Bohème

2. Classical music recordings that you treasure:

Wagner’s Prelude to Parsifal by Toscanini; Mozart Concertos by Murray Perahia; Rameau Suites by Marcelle Meyer; Bach’s Goldberg Variations by Glenn Gould; Scarlatti Sonatas by Clara Haskil

3. Favorite non-classical musicians and/or recordings:

The French singer Barbara (all her recordings)

4. Music that makes you cry – any genre:

The voices of Maria Callas, Barbara, Nina Simone, Edith Piaf...

5. Definitely underrated work(s) or composer (s):

Darius Milhaud, Frederico Mompou, Jean Wiener

6. Possibly overrated work(s) or composer (s):

[no response]

7. Live music performance (s) you attended – any genre – that you’ll never forget:

Barbara at the Théâtre du Châtelet (Paris, 1993); Waltraud Meier as Kundry (Bayreuth, 1990)

8. A few relatively recent films you love:

Le Ruban blanc (Mickael Haneke), Avatar (James Cameron)

9. A few films you consider classics:

L'Aurore (Murnau); Metropolis (Murnau); All films by Takeshi Kitano; Franz (Jacques Brel)

10. A book (or two) that is important to you (and why):

"Our Need for Consolation Is Insatiable" by Stig Dargeman

11. Thing(s) about yourself that you’re most proud of:

[no response]

12. Thing(s) about yourself that you’re embarrassed by:

[no response]

13.Three things you can’t live without:

Love, theatres, chocolate

14.“When I want to get away from it all I…”

I do zazen or I go to the swimming pool

15.“People are surprised to find out that I…”

… that I play fffff with my very small body

16.“My favorite cities are…”

Florence for a week, Tokyo for two weeks, New York for one month, Montreal for the end of my life

17.“I have a secret crush on…”

I have a lot of secret crushes!

18.“My most obvious guilty pleasure is…”

Eating chocolate

19.“I’d really love to meet – or to have met…”

Barack Obama, Woody Allen, Bobby McFerrin; In the past: Frederic Chopin, Maurice Ravel, Johann Sebastian Bach, Charlie Chaplin

20.“I never understood why…”

[no response]


21. Question you wish someone would ask you (and the answer to that question):

Q: Are you free?

A: Yes!

Past installments of 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS:

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann

Soprano Christine Brewer

Soprano Kate Royal

Baritone Paulo Szot

Baritone Nathan Gunn

Bass-Baritone John Relyea

Pianist Yuja Wang

Pianist Kirill Gerstein

Organist Cameron Carpenter

Choreographer Peter Martins

Soprano Diana Damrau

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein

Pianist David Fray

Violinist Sarah Chang

Pianist Ingrid Fliter

Mezzo-Soprano Joyce DiDonato

Pianist Yefim “Fima” Bronfman

Soprano Sandrine Piau

Soprano Natalie Dessay

Harpsichordist and Conductor Christophe Rousset

Guitarist Xuefei Yang

Tenor Giuseppe Filianoti

Soprano Nicole Cabell

Pianist Jonathan Biss

Tenor Ian Bostridge

Soprano Danielle de Niese

New-Music Sextet eighth blackbird

Composer and Violinist Mark O'Connor

Composer Jake Heggie

Composer Ricky Ian Gordon

Pianist David Greilsammer


Albert Imperato, a music promoter who co-founded 21C Media Group in January 2000, writes frequently about the arts for various publications and blogs. 

His new series, 20 (PLUS) QUESTIONS, is his take on (and nod to) Vanity Fair's "Proust Questionnaire." Email him at aimperato@21cmediagroup.com.

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