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Aimard plays Debussy in Chicago, gives U.S. premiere of Murail concerto

“One of the most brilliant and distinctive pianists
before the public today.” — Boston Globe
Next month in the U.S., the repertoire of Pierre-Laurent Aimard – the Grammy Award-winning French pianist – will range from works by an icon of Gallic modernism to music by one of France’s top contemporary composers. At Chicago’s Symphony Center on April 7, Aimard performs Debussy’s Préludes, Books I and II. Reviewing Aimard’s recent Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Préludes, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times said: “Mr. Aimard captures the sly, wistful, fiery and fantastical qualities in these ingeniously diverse pieces while treating them as the audacious contemporary works they are.” Then, from April 11 to 13, Aimard performs the U.S. premiere of French composer Tristan Murail’s piano concerto Le Désenchantement du monde alongside the New York Philharmonic conducted by David Robertson at Lincoln Center. Aimard gave the world premiere of Murail’s concerto last May in Munich with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under George Benjamin. The New York Philharmonic program also features Aimard as the soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23.
This season, Aimard has performed Debussy’s Préludes everywhere from Chapel Hill, N.C., to Philadelphia to Carnegie Hall, on programs that also include the works with Schumann’s Symphonic Études and music by contemporary Swiss composer Heinz Holliger. When it comes to Debussy, Aimard has long been a renowned interpreter of his music. In a recent interview with WQXR’s Jeff Spurgeon, the pianist described the Préludes as 24 incredibly varied ways “to paint, to design, to suggest, to charm.” Classic FM in the U.K. made Aimard’s Préludes its CD of the week, and Hugh Canning from the Sunday Times said in his record review: “It is always a pleasure to hear an outstanding native player in these pillars of the French piano repertoire. … His superbly controlled crescendos evoke the edifice rising majestically out of deep. He relishes the jazzy syncopations of the cake-walk numbers, while the watery cascades of ‘Ondine’ and the sparkling explosions of ‘Feux d’artifice’ scintillate in his hands.”
In Austria, the Kleine Zeitung gave the Préludes release another glowing review: “With outstanding pianistic mastery, Aimard’s recording of the 24 pieces shines, clearly formed and with nothing blurred. He works out the sonic characteristics of each Prélude, creating a fascinating elegance and dazzling range of colors.” And reviewing a live performance of the Préludes, the Neue Luzerner Zeitung said:Aimard’s interpretation was distinguished by exemplary respect to the score, which was repeatedly and meticulously displayed through to the smallest of pedal nuances. He relinquished tonal sentimentality in the landscape images (Bruyères), brushed aside the rhythmic grotesque (Habénera) and only increased the virtuosity for the closing Prélude. Now that was a programme of Fireworks.”
In mid-April, Aimard will perform the U.S. premiere of Le Désenchantement du monde, a piano concerto written by his longtime colleague, French composer Tristan Murail. Murail (b. 1947) once posed a fascinating question: “Can one still write for the piano today? Through the 19th century and to the beginning of the 20th, it was the emblematic instrument … but has it survived the array of tortures inflicted upon it by the end of the 20th century? After the clusters of Henry Cowell, the preparations of John Cage, the ornithological percussions of Messiaen, the electrified mantras of Stockhausen, and the various scrapings and pinchings of strings, what space is left to the imagination?” Murail’s new piano concerto is perhaps an attempt at answering his own question, with the composer inviting the audience to think of the interaction of piano and orchestra in the concerto as “like the interactions among the characters of a novel.” Le Désenchantement du monde was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra.  
This summer, Aimard returns to the Tanglewood Music Center as director of its Festival of Contemporary Music. His programming highlights the works of composers Helmut Lachenmann and Marco Stroppa, along with performances of music by György Ligeti, Conlon Nancarrow, Steve Reich and a Tanglewood commission by Elliott Carter of Instances (its East Coast premiere). The festival will conclude with the U.S. premiere of George Benjamin’s acclaimed opera Written on Skin in a concert performance.  
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, upcoming engagements
March 27
Amsterdam, Netherlands
MESSIAEN: Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus
April 3
Aix-en-Provence, France
Théâtre du Jeu de Paume
SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin
w/ Matthias Goerne, baritone
April 7
Chicago, IL
Symphony Center
DEBUSSY: Préludes, Books 1 and 2
Presented by Chicago Symphony Orchestra
April 11-13
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K 488
MURAIL: Le Désenchantement du Monde (U.S. Premiere)
New York Philharmonic / David Robertson
April 26
Munich, Germany
Concert Hall
Bayerischer Rundfunk / Jonathan Nott
May 10-12
Budapest, Hungary
Béla Bartók Concert Hall
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 1
Budapest Festival Orchestra / Osmo Vänskä


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