French Pianist Alexandre Tharaud to Perform April 3 in Oberlin

March 30, 2019
By Erich Burnett
photo of pianist Alexandre Tharaud
Photo credit: Marco Borggreve

Program of Bach's seminal Goldberg Variations to replace previously scheduled appearance by Piotr Anderszewski.

A master interpreter of one of classical music's most monumental works pays an unexpected visit to Oberlin this week.

French pianist Alexandre Tharaud will perform Bach’s Goldberg Variations in Finney Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3.

Immediately following the performance, Tharaud will take part in a question-and-answer session led by Oberlin Professor of Piano Robert Shannon.

The performance, part of the 2018-19 Artist Recital Series, replaces a previously scheduled appearance by pianist Piotr Anderszewski, who was forced to cancel a series of dates due to illness.

Published in increments between 1731 and 1741, the Goldberg Variations represented the final part of Bach’s “Keyboard Practice” series, though the lively variations themselves amounted to anything but practice work. Written for harpsichord, they initially may have been intended for the enjoyment of Count Hermann Karl von Keyserling, who is said to have requested a collection of cheerful music that might be performed through the night, as he struggled with chronic illness and bouts of insomnia. Some accounts claim that it was Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, a young student of Bach’s, who tended to the keyboard through the count’s restless nights.

Regardless of their backstory, the Goldberg Variations in modern times have come to be synonymous with consummate artistry; legendary pianist Glenn Gould is often regarded as the master interpreter of the 30 variations. Tharaud, meanwhile, is fast earning a reputation as Gould’s heir apparent.

"He conceives the whole piece as a drama that sucks us in and doesn’t let go, and carefully paints vivid character along the way,” The Guardian has said of Tharaud's prowess with Goldberg.

Equally adept with new music as well as traditional repertoire, Tharaud gave the world premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s piano concerto Left, Alone in 2016—the same year he won an ECHO Klassik award for music production of the year for his recording of the Goldberg Variations.

(Get a hint of his fabulous artistry on that recording in this brief video he made in conjunction with the release.)

An avid performer, Tharaud has appeared with major orchestras and in countless premier venues and worldwide, from Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in the U.S. to Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, and the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in his native Paris.

He will devote the coming months to performances throughout North and South America before returning to Europe for an extensive slate of engagements through late summer.

Tharaud has been active in the studio as well, releasing a pair of well-received recordings on Erato in 2018: Beethoven’s Opus 109-111 piano sonatas and a collection of cello sonatas and Hungarian dances by Brahms, for which he was joined by cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.

RESERVE YOUR SEATS NOW: Tickets for Alexandre Tharaud are $35 ($30 for seniors, members of the military, and Oberlin faculty, staff, and alumni); all student tickets are $10. They are available by calling 800-371-0178 or by visiting Oberlin’s Arts Guide. Tickets for Anderzsewski will be honored at the door.

The 2018-19 Artist Recital Series concludes April 17 with a performance by the jazz supergroup Spring Quartet, featuring drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophone player Joe Lovano, bassist-vocalist Esperanza Spalding, and pianist Leo Genovese. Tickets are extremely limited; learn more at 800-371-0178.

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