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Alexandre Tharaud: Le Boeuf sur le toit. Swinging Paris
Alexandre Tharaud (piano); Frank Braley (piano); David Chevallier (banjo); Florent Jodelet (percussion); Madeleine Peyroux (vocals); Juliette (vocals); Natalie Dessay (vocals); Bénabar (vocals); Guillaume Gallienne (vocals); The Virgin Voices
rec. January, March and April 2012, Ircam, Cité de la Musique and Salle Colonne, Paris
VIRGIN CLASSICS 4407372 [67:25]

Experience Classicsonline

1. Chopinata (Fantaisie Musicale dans un rythme de Fax sur des motifs de Chopin) [3:28]
2. The Man I Love [2:03]
3. Yes Sir, That's My Baby [1:30]
4. Do It Again [1:36]
5. Hungaria (Fantaisie Musicale dans un rythme de Fox sur des motifs de Liszt) [2:45]
6. Let's Do It [4:42]
7. Doll Dance [2:05]
8. J'ai pas su y faire [3:36]
9. Blue River [3:12]
10. Why Do I Love You [2:29]
11. A Little Slow Fox with Mary [2:31]
12. Covanduihno [2:23]
13. Poppy Cock [1:35]
14. Blues [2:28]
15. Isoldina [2:06]
16. Blues chanté [2:44]
17. Gonna Get A Girl [2:30]
18. Henri, pourquoi n'aimes-tu pas les femmes [2:22]
19. Tango des Fratellini, extrait du Boeuf sur le toit [1:50]
20. Five o'clock (extrait de L'Enfant et les Sortilèges) [1:50]
21. Caramel mou [5:14]
22. Haarlem [3:05]
23. Collegiate [1:37]
24. Georgian Blues [3:45]
25. Saint Louis Blues [2:33]
26. Clement's Charleston [1:25]

Don't expect an all-Milhaud disc, even though it takes one of the Frenchman's most famous creations as its title piece. What you can expect, instead, is a front row seat at a Parisian cabaret where Alexandre Tharaud, assisted by his confrères, celebrates the music of the epoch with a series of inspired selections, mostly from the insouciant pens of Jean Wiéner and Clément Doucet. It was the latter who concocted his 'Fantasy Foxtrot' Chopinata, a chic update, performed with suitably elegant dispatch. His Hungaria does for Liszt what he did for Chopin: nightclub bravura of a decidedly knowing kind. Tharaud isn't deaf to the entreaties of simplicity, thus his The Man I Love is played straight, with no cross-currents from Les Six. Crunchy chords enliven Walter Donaldson's Yes, Sir, That's My Baby.

Together Tharaud and Frank Braley summon up Wiéner and Doucet in a series of two-piano performances of arrangements, with an especially dextrous and vigorous Why Do I Love You? Whilst Fauré fainted at Bayreuth, his compatriot Doucet has fun with Wagner, concocting Isoldina, in 1928, an opus of decidedly vampish qualities.

Guest musicians include Madeleine Peyroux, who is typically imaginative on Let's Do It, charming too, but gliding splendidly behind the beat. Juliette is quite genteel on J'ai pas su y faire. There's an unusual wispy melisma courtesy of Natalie Dessay in Blues chante whilst Benabar steps into Maurice Chevalier's shoes for Gonna Get a Girl. The Virgin Voices lend their lungs in the cause of a brief extract from the operetta Louis XIV. There's a brief extract from the title track - 97 seconds of the Tango des Fratellini which is extracted and re-christened from Boeuf sur le toit. There’s also an arrangement by Roger Branga of a brief segment from Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, re-christened Five o’clock.
Thus one can see that some 'classical' items have been subjected to the nightclub ethos alongside the works of American and other contemporaries. They all work well, providing contrast and colour and variations in pacing and instrumentation. The disc, in fact, ends with a series of bluesy numbers from Wiéner and others. The slow bluesy Haarlem (misspelling by Wiéner or deliberate?) rubs shoulders with the St Louis Blues, played on a Pleyel harpsichord in Wiéner’s arrangement for the instrument in 1938. It adds a droll Wanda Landowska touch. The date alerts one to the fact that Le Boeuf had a short life and had long since shut. In fact it shut in 1928.

To further entice there's a pleasing gatefold album with an excellent illustrated booklet.
Jonathan Woolf
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