The idea for the French pianist Aurèle Marthan’s new album came in an unusual place—on a surfboard, off the coastal village of Guéthary in French Basque country. Marthan grew up in Guéthary and conceived the album as a tribute to a village he describes as “very beautiful, authentic, and energizing.” Compiling themed recitals can be tricky, but Marthan had no trouble finding the 16 pieces that he wanted to include in Guéthary. “All of the composers are related to the Basque country in some way,” he says. “Stravinsky, for instance, wrote his ballet Petrushka [Track 9] in Russia but arranged it in Biarritz for piano.” Reflecting the Basque region’s cultural diversity, Marthan has ensured that Guéthary features different kinds of music. Saint-Saëns, Rameau, and Couperin fly the flag for classical, while Alberto Iglesias and Armand Amar represent film music. There is even an imaginative arrangement of the Eagles’ smash hit “Hotel California” (Track 17). “For me, mixing all of this music together comes naturally—it’s really one music,” Marthan explains. The heart of Guéthary is Marthan’s sparkling, sensitive rendition of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (Tracks 5-7), one of the Basque composer’s finest pieces. For his recording, Marthan commissioned a new arrangement of the concerto, recast for an octet of instruments including accordion. The results are thrillingly alive and colorful and, suggests Marthan, cast new light on Ravel’s much-played masterpiece. “I can hear voices and timbres which I can’t hear when I play the work with a full orchestra,” he says. “It’s a really beautiful arrangement.”

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