Mere months after Le Boeuf sur le toit, the young French pianist Alexandre Tharaud’s strut through the jazz-classical repertoire of the “Swinging Paris” cabaret scene of the 1920s, comes something entirely different in mood: a heavy and serious program that serves as the soundtrack to the Michael Haneke film about late-stage love, Amour.
In the film, Tharaud offers a more-than-serviceable turn as a famed international piano recitalist, a surprising move that only confirms the musician’s range as an artist. You can hear the same range in this soundtrack — from his stark reading of two iconic Schubert Impromptus to the controlled surges of energy present on the three bagatelles by Beethoven (his first official recordings of that composer’s writing for piano). And while Tharaud recorded all of Schubert’s “Moments Musicaux” for another label in 2000, the third of the series has greater clarity in this new version.
That clarity extends to the soundtrack’s standouts, both here and in the film: The two Impromptus, specifically the first and third. Murray Perahia may have suggested a greater number of moods in his recording of Impromptu No. 1, but Tharaud’s weighty consideration here is reliably gripping. When playing the No. 3 in G Minor, meanwhile, Tharaud doesn’t overdose on the dreaminess of the initial theme like some pianists; there’s a darkness that he allows to creep in, but the beauty is still there even if it isn’t at the forefront. In that way, it’s a fitting complement to Haneke’s film, which hints at the qualities of a decades-long love story by emphasizing some of its bleakest hours.
Tharaud’s half hour of piano recordings for the film are so excellent that the closing snippets of dialog taken from the final edit feel tacked on and unnecessary (even if you speak French). While it could be of minor interest to have Tharaud’s big scene immortalized as audio, where he really speaks, naturally, is in his playing.