Although known today for his operas, Jean-Philippe Rameau didn't compose
his first work in that form until the age of 50. Before that he was known
primarily as a musical theorist and keyboard composer. Writing as he did
in the high Baroque he had a lot of competition. But if this recording of
selected keyboard suites by pianist Alexandre Tharaud is any indication
Rameau had no trouble keeping up with the Bachs and the Handels. To the
keyboard music of the day he also added something personal — a French
flavor derived from the lineage of Lully and Couperin but more modern,
Tharaud does for these suites something not too much different than Glenn
Gould did for the keyboard works of J.S. Bach or Keith Jarrett for those
of Handel: He makes the music live again. And though purists may object
to his consistent use of the pedal there is no doubt in my mind that the
result more than makes up for any considerations of that nature by the
pure gorgeousness of the sound.
I only have one very minor criticism of the album. For some reason
either Tharaud or the producers got some bee in their bonnet that they
would include Debussy's "Homage À Rameau" as the last track. I don't
dislike the Debussy track. But to me adding something like that to an
album otherwise devoted to Rameau is a little like the "you got peanut
butter in my chocolate" affair. Ah well, I can live with it. And down
the line I might burn a CD without that track.
A jewel of an album. You can buy the CD for around $22. Or if you are
tight on money (like I am) you can download it on MP3 at Amazon for
$8.99 and burn your own disk.