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Alexandre Tharaud irresistible in 20s blend as sweet as caramel
on 26 August 2015
Le Boeuf sur le Toit is a completely delightful album of music from the Roaring Twenties in Paris, the hub of musical life in the whole world, practically, and the nexus of classical and jazz influences coming together. All the biggest names in the art world at that time gathered in this very colourful, atmospheric locale where Jean Wiéner managed the musical aspect, forming a duo with Clément Doucet and playing much other music besides. He was one of the great figures of music at the time, and the music for two pianos transcribed here by Alexandre Tharaud's own hand from the sound recordings, is clearly a great thing to have done. Tharaud is joined by Frank Braley and the results are electrifying - on the same level as Gershwin, one of whose compositions features among the four. The American's solo piano transcriptions are also represented in three songs, including The Man I Love, the beguiling Do It Again, and Why Do I Love You, for the double forces mentioned above. Three numbers by Clément Doucet are riffs on themes by great 19th century composers, Chopinata, Hungaria (on Liszt, featuring the triangle movement from the First Piano Concerto, the 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody and other bits and pieces) and Isoldina - a sort of jazz precis of Wagner's opera. The Chopin is possibly the most catchy of all. The cover of the printed music is reproduced inside the booklet, along with other covers, photos, and a brilliant essay on the club and the period, and an interview with Tharaud, whose grandfather played light music in the 20s as well as being an orchestral violinist. The disc features a number of other musicians in vocal and other items, including Natalie Dessay, although the balance is certainly on piano pieces - there's also a blues played on the harpsichord, but such is the feeling of the lid coming off that anything seems possible and can be part of the blend - it makes you feel that the Twenties must have been the most exciting era to have lived in.