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Aimard directs Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music (Aug 8–12)

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival since 2009, returned in June to lead the unique British institution’s 66th season, which marked the centenary of its founder, Benjamin Britten. Under the Grammy Award-winning French pianist’s curatorship, the festival felt “very international” (Financial Times). His programming proved, once again, to be “stimulating” (The Times, UK), and his own performances “spellbinding” (The Guardian). As The Telegraph concluded, “In all it was a feast for the ear and mind.” Next, Aimard heads to the U.S. to direct the Festival of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC), where he showcases the music of Elliott Carter, Helmut Lachenmann, and Marco Stroppa alongside a world premiere from Christian Mason and the U.S. premiere of George Benjamin’s opera Written on Skin, in a concert performance conducted by the composer (Aug 8–12).
A highlight of this year’s Aldeburgh Festival was Piano Century: 1913–2013, a solo piano tour-de-force in which Aimard traced the story of avant-garde composition from the year of Britten’s birth – a crucial juncture in music history – to the present day. According to The Observer,
“Aimard delivered a spellbinding survey. … This marathon comprised more than two dozen works and 22 composers in all, each introduced by Aimard with flair and insight, and played dazzlingly.”
As for his artistic leadership, The Observer recognized Aimard’s achievement in having “renewed the festival’s commitment to the contemporary arts – not music alone – and to its international imagination,” declaring: “Aimard has ensured that the provincialism Britten himself dreaded has no place here.” Similarly, The Times admired the way that “even in his centenary year, Britten’s is by no means the only, or even the predominant, voice. A stimulating weekend of Harrison Birtwistle, Jonathan Harvey, and Julian Anderson demonstrated that Britten’s festival, like his wish for his music itself, is indeed ‘useful, and to the living.’”
A primary focus for Aimard at Tanglewood’s Festival of Contemporary Music is a composer who died last year at the age of 103: Elliott Carter, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American “whose kaleidoscopic, rigorously organized works established him as one of the most important and enduring voices in contemporary music” (New York Times). Aimard’s musical partnership with the late composer spanned 35 years. In a recent interview the pianist paid tribute to the “freedom and transparency” of Carter’s most mature writing, and it was Aimard who premiered Carter’s final composition, Epigrams, at Aldeburgh, prompting The Telegraph to “marvel at [its] sheer balletic agility.” On August 9, in the first of his two performances at TMC, the pianist will give the work’s American premiere on a program with the “mind-blowingly good” (Los Angeles Times) JACK Quartet. The Festival of Contemporary Music will also present the East Coast premiere of Carter’s last orchestral work, Instances, on August 8; a TMC co-commission, the piece ends, as the Seattle Times observed at its debut, with a “wistful string passage that sounded, rather appropriately, like a farewell.”
Alongside Carter’s music, under Aimard’s direction the Festival of Contemporary Music will foreground the work of two composers relatively unfamiliar to American audiences – Germany’s Helmut Lachenmann and Italy’s Marco Stroppa – besides spotlighting the music of Britain’s George Benjamin and Christian Mason, Hungary’s György Ligeti, and America’s own Conlon Nancarrow and Steve Reich. Highlights include the world premiere of Mason’s Years of Light, a TMC commission (Aug 8); the U.S. premieres of Let Me Sing Into Your Ear (Aug 8) and Traiettoria (Aug 9), both by Stroppa; and a rendition of Reich’s iconic Music for 18 Musicians, in honor of the composer’s 75th birthday (Aug 11). On August 12, the U.S. premiere of Benjamin’s opera Written On Skin – pronounced “a triumph” (The Guardian) at London’s Royal Opera House – will draw the festival to a close in a concert performance with the composer himself on the podium.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard directs Tanglewood Music Center’s Festival of Contemporary Music
Aug 8
CARTER: String Quartet No. 1
New Fromm Players
Aug 8
MASON: Years of Light (world premiere, TMC commission)
STROPPA: Let Me Sing Into Your Ear (U.S. premiere)
CARTER: Instances (East Coast premiere, TMC co-commission)
LACHENMANN: “…zwei Gefühle…”
TMC Fellows; Brian Church, narrator; Michele Marelli, basset horn
Aug 9
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
CARTER: Epigrams (U.S. premiere)
STROPPA: Traiettoria (U.S. premiere)
With JACK Quartet and New Fromm Players
Aug 10
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
LACHENMANN: “…got lost…”
CARTER: Retrouvailles; Tri-Tribute; 90+
With Elizabeth Keusch, soprano; Stephen Drury, piano; New Fromm Players
Aug 11
NANCARROW, transcr. Adès: Study No. 6 & 7 for two pianos
STROPPA: Ay, There’s the Rub
LIGETI: Three Pieces: Monument – Self portrait – Movement
REICH: Music for 18 Musicians
Mickey Katz, cello; TMC Fellows; New Fromm Players
Aug 12
BENJAMIN: Written On Skin (U.S. premiere)
TMC Fellows; George Benjamin, conductor
More Summer Dates
Aug 18
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Edinburgh International Festival
KURTÁG: Játékok (selection)
MARCO STROPPA: Traiettoria
With Marco Stroppa, electronics
Aug 21
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Edinburgh International Festival
MESSIAEN : “Le Traquet Stapazin“ from Catalogue d’oiseaux
With Marco Stroppa, electronics and Samuel Favre, percussion
Aug 23
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Edinburgh International Festival
DEBUSSY: Préludes (selection of 12)
LIGETI: Études (selection of 12)
Aug 24
Enniskillen, Northern Ireland
Happy Days: Enniskillen International Beckett Festival
MESSIAEN: Visions de l’Amen (with Tamara Stefanovich, piano) 
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© 21C Media Group, July 2013

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