Key Points:

Rating:

* * * *

There was a time when a composer like Thierry Pecou would be fated to   obscurity. Now you can google him, YouTube him or, better still, search out his new Harmonia Mundi CD featuring pianist Alexandre Tharaud.

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If you have a yen for pianists who aren't trapped in a Chopin/Liszt groove, then Tharaud might be your man. For many he made his mark making 18th century French harpsichord music sound as if it had been written for the modern piano. You can also catch him on some fine duo outings with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.

Tharaud hurls himself into the frenzies of Pecou's

L'Oiseau Innumerable Concerto

as if he was trying to break the prestissimo barrier. When fevers fade in the work's third movement, he and the fine musicians of the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, under the able Andrea Quinn, create spooky and surreal atmospheres.

Solo, he takes on the seven shortish pieces of

Outre-memoire, variances

. It may begin with a dervish spin, but there is also a touch of trippy trance here and there.

The work itself has a history, adapted from an earlier chamber score by Pecou, inspired by historical attitudes to slavery and servitude.

Tharaud closes his piano for Pecou's

Petit Livre pour clavier

and explores more exotic keyboards. Cuckoos are evoked by moving around on and in a spinet; a ricercar, not so far in spirit from a Phil Dadson hocket, features the liquid tones of a portable organ.

After Pecou's tribute to a Sarabande by Rameau, Tharaud ends with the real thing. Rameau's graceful 1728 dance shudders with ornamentation and anticipation - the perfect starting point for an adventurous new listener.


 William Dart