In Paris in 1921, the legendary cabaret Le Boeuf sur le Toit (The Ox on the Roof) opened in Paris, providing a hangout for celebrities like Coco Chanel, Jean Cocteau and Maurice Ravel, not to mention Darius Milhaud, whose ballet score furnished its name. In time the nightspot spawned not only new songs, but also cheeky piano paraphrases of the music of great masters.
The French pianist Alexandre Tharaud has compiled 20 pieces that were identified with the legendary venue including numbers by Ravel, Milhaud, Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Kalman, W.C. Handy and others. Some of these are great party gags to be shared among music lovers, others are beauties to be enjoyed, and all demonstrate the range and atmosphere of the famed club.
There’s a foxtrot version of Chopin melodies called "Chopinata" and an elaborate condensation of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde called "Isoldina." There are American Songbook hits by Gershwin and Porter and several selections by the French piano duo of Jean Wiener and Clement Doucet, who were regulars at Le Boeuf.
Among the friends Tharaud gathers is soprano Natalie Dessay, who does a credible “Blues chanté,” pop-cabaret singer Madeleine Peyroux (in “Let’s Do It”) and the pianist Frank Braley, who fills out several four-hand piano pieces.
Tharaud, who performed at both Carnegie Hall (his recital debut) and Le Poisson Rouge last week, played one of his jazz-age staples on an upright in the WQXR Café earlier this year. Below is the video.
Le Boeuf sur le toit
Alexandre Tharaud, piano
Available at Arkivmusic.com
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