'Galant pleasures' seems an apt description for this release, which presents a charming selection of works written for the mandolin in 18th-century Paris. Indeed, it was around this time that a number of plucked instruments came into vogue, and the mandolin in particular found great success among the nobility and middle classes, taking part in an atmosphere of intellect and refinement that prompted a new artistic direction in music of the period, revolutionising audiences' tastes and sensibilities along the way.
The London Baroque's traversal of the Baroque trio sonata across its various developments over time and into diverse national styles enters somewhat arcane territory here with a program of English trio sonatas of the 18th century. The program is chronological, at least by publication (the Op. 5 set of trio sonatas by Handel, though published in 1759, was assembled from earlier music from a variety of genres), and the pieces represented run from one of the first English examples of the trio sonata to Classical-style music in which the harpsichord continuo is almost superfluous.
The biggest surprise on this wonderfully exuberant and exhilarating disc comes with the very first notes: the piano tone is rich and full, worlds away from the slightly distant, musical-box tone that is often thought appropriate for recordings of Domenico Scarlatti's sonatas on a modern concert grand. But as the soundworld suggests, Tharaud is totally unapologetic about playing these pieces – all originally composed for harpsichord even though the earliest fortepianos were in circulation in Scarlatti's time – on a piano. In the sleevenotes, Tharaud says that of the four baroque keyboard composers that he has recorded so far – Bach, Couperin, Rameau and now Scarlatti – it's the last whose music is most suited to this treatment. His selection of sonatas is chosen for maximum variety, with a group in which the Spanish inflections of flamenco and folk music can be heard, others in which he gets a chance to show some dazzling technique, alongside those in which the playfulness is replaced by profound introspection.