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Aimard triumphs in first season leading Aldeburgh Festival

Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s first of three seasons as artistic director of the
Aldeburgh Festival was greeted with cheers and rave notices from the media.

a full-page prelude to the Aimard era at Aldeburgh:

“Mr Aimard enjoys unrivalled connections with leading
European composers and performers and has an attitude to music-making that is
highly pragmatic while still uncompromising. Even his critics are heralding
this year’s Aldeburgh festival…as one of the best programmes for years. New
commissions include two staged works by Harrison Birtwistle. Elliott Carter, an
American centenarian, will also be a prominent presence, with two days of concerts
centered on the premiere of “On Conversing with Paradise”, a setting of poems
by Ezra Pound. Nor will Mr Aimard be confined to a backstage role. Among other
performances, he will be playing the British premiere of George Benjamin’s
“Duet for Piano and Orchestra”. 

’s Ivan
Hewett interviewed Aimard in the days leading up to the opening, and presented
the popular pianist in succinct language:

is a favourite word of the renowned French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. He
uses it to describe the mysterious transformations that occur when opposites
meet. Right now he’s hoping to create a little alchemy of his own. In just over
a week, he makes his debut as director of the Aldeburgh Festival.

“On the face of it, this
is an unlikely match. Aldeburgh has never been parochial in its outlook, but
nevertheless there is something deeply English about this festival. … So
inviting him to head the festival was a bold move, and no one was more
surprised than Aimard himself. ‘I realised that, if I accepted, I would learn a
lot, discover a lot. So I said, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’”

Hewett gave
his final stamp of approval in a June 29 review of the festival’s last concert.
The all-encompassing headline described the performance by the Mahler Chamber
Orchestra (conducted by Aimard) in a few words: “As always, conductor Aimard
found a wonderful range of pianistic colours.”

The Financial
reported on
the new pieces by Carter (now in his 101st year), and described the composer as
still being “full of musical ideas…and some will
survive him – not least two short piano pieces, Fratribute and Sistribute,
which with the existing (and dazzling) Matribute now add up to a piquant cycle. … Pierre-Laurent
Aimard played them with characteristic panache

A writer
for France’s Figaro regretted not having visited earlier. 

“Who but the English know about
Aldeburgh?  Some initiates know
that Benjamin Britten founded it … and ran it until his death. … Few
continentals could even guess that the Aldeburgh Festival, 33 years after
Britten’s demise, is more active and inventive than ever. … Pierre-Laurent
Aimard presented the opening evening as a declaration of intent: this artist,
who has never hesitated to upset the concert-going public, presented a concert
titled ‘Collage – Montage’, which dislodged some preconceptions and led to many
an encyclopedic British web site dedicated to classical music reviews,
described Aimard’s “Collage – Montage” program:

devised a musical entertainment which he entitled Collage-Montage. The idea was
simple enough: take some very different composers and juxtapose their music so
that we, the audience, hear the differences and the connections. Or as Aimard
himself puts it in his introductory programme note: ‘the whole thing is a game.
A game with different musics (sic) and different musicians. A game that evokes
memories and provokes discoveries.’

“So just as we have
substantive movements of works by Beethoven, Bach, Bartok and Schubert, so we
also hear in immediate complement and contrast extracts from Kurtag, Ligeti and
Stockhausen – composers with whom Aimard has worked intensively over many
years. [It is] enormous fun for performers and audience alike – the sort of
musical experimentation that a gifted group of music students might get up to
when they let their hair down.”

In its
review of the final concert, The Guardian summed up the festival:

“Aimard quietly stamped his
authority on the festival’s final weekend, appearing as both pianist and
conductor….Collaborating with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra over two concerts,
Aimard drew parallels between the methods of Haydn and Ligeti, Birtwistle and
Stockhausen respectively. In Birtwistle’s Slow Frieze…Aimard coolly delivered the
piano’s part in the virtuosic engagement with mechanisms of time and tempi.” 

returns to Aldeburgh as Artistic Director in 2010 and 2011.  Other upcoming summer activities for Aimard
include a concert on July 31st at the Salzburg Festival in Vienna
and performances with Chamber Orchestra of Europe at
the “Mostly Mozart” festival in New York on August 9 and 10, where he will act
as both conductor and soloist.

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©21C Media Group, July 2009

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