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Caramoor Welcomes Incomparable French Pianist Hélène Grimaud as 2015 Artist-in-Residence (July 31 & Aug 2)

Now celebrating its 70th anniversary season, Caramoor welcomes incomparable French pianist Hélène Grimaud as its 2015 Artist-in-Residence. A passionate Brahms interpreter known for her “fearless originality” (Los Angeles Times), Grimaud features music by the great German Romantic in two summer performances at Caramoor’s historic Westchester estate. In a solo recital, she pairs Brahms’s Second Piano Sonata with her “inspired” (New York Times) program of water-themed music (July 31), and for the Festival Finale, she gives her signature account of his First Piano Concerto with Pablo Heras-Casado and the resident Orchestra of St. Luke’s (Aug 2).

Grimaud’s residency demonstrates Caramoor’s ongoing commitment to forging and nurturing connections with artists of the highest caliber. Emmanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Yefim Bronfman, Yo-Yo Ma, Angela Meade, and Gil Shaham are among the many classical luminaries presented at Caramoor in recent seasons, and last year saw the inauguration of its new Artist-in-Residence program, with MacArthur Award-winning cellist Alisa Weilerstein as the first incumbent. Indeed, with 90 acres of picturesque Italianate architecture and gardens just one hour’s drive from Manhattan, Caramoor represents something of a cultural oasis for performers; as Weilerstein put it, “Caramoor’s idyllic setting makes it a nurturing home of creative exploration.”

Hélène Grimaud and her association with Caramoor
Like Weilerstein, Hélène Grimaud possesses a highly distinctive musical voice. The New Yorker calls her “a rubato artist, a reinventor of phrasings, a taker of chances”; the San Francisco Classical Voice writes: “Grimaud is a fearless musician who inhabits even the most familiar repertoire with an unapologetically personal, deeply intuitive, sometimes impulsive presence.” As the Financial Times affirms, “She unfailingly delivers original inflected conceptions of the music.”

The upcoming residency marks the French pianist’s first Caramoor appearance in ten years. However, her long association with the festival dates back to 1998, when she made her debut with a solo recital program that, like this summer’s, included the second Brahms piano sonata. Since then, she has twice returned as soloist with Peter Oundjian and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and – though forced by illness to cancel – was also scheduled to open the 2007 summer season.

Grimaud has moreover developed close ties with Caramoor’s Westchester neighborhood. An artist for whom conservation, like music, is one of the hallmarks of civilization, in 1999 she founded the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC), a private, nonprofit environmental educational facility in South Salem, NY, just ten minutes’ drive from Caramoor. “As the Romantics have always taught us, … the ultimate goal of life should be love, … and there can be no love on the larger level without ecology,” Grimaud says. She remains actively and passionately involved in the daily work of the center, which has, the New Yorker reports, “become a considerable success.”

Grimaud and Brahms
Equally dear to Grimaud’s heart is the music of Brahms, with which she first fell in love at the age of eleven. Describing the bond she has since felt as a kind of “soul chemistry,” the pianist explains:

“There’s something that is so poignant in his music. It’s difficult to describe, but for me it’s looking back at the moment when everything changed. … It makes his music irreplaceable. Because it just grabs your very insides and just doesn’t let go. It makes you feel more alive.”

As for her discovery of the composer’s First Piano Concerto, Grimaud recalls:

“I was totally transfixed. There was something that really penetrated me: … the music is going through you, but it’s also embracing you. It was a really life-changing moment for me. I all of a sudden felt that this music was going to be a refuge for the rest of my life, somehow. And actually my relationship to the First Concerto hasn’t changed, really: it is just as essential to me today as it ever was, and ever will be, I expect.”

The intensity of her response is one that Grimaud’s listeners are quick to recognize. She and conductor Andris Nelsons “made their mark” (The Times of London) with their 2013 Deutsche Grammophon release of the two Brahms concertos, recorded live with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, and when the pianist reprised the First Concerto in live performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and James Gaffigan, the Los Angeles Times found her interpretation “illuminating.” The review continued:

“In the slow movement, Grimaud came close to achieving a greater sense of spiritual intensity than most can at the [Hollywood] Bowl, and without the slightest trace of sentimentality. But when the fast movement took off, her tone turned glittery and the joint jumped.”

Water-themed solo recital
Grimaud scored similar accolades this winter for her groundbreaking multimedia collaboration at New York’s Park Avenue Armory with Turner Prize-winning Scottish conceptual artist Douglas Gordon. Gordon flooded the massive industrial cavern of the Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall with 122,000 gallons of water, producing a shallow, 30,000-square foot pool in which the hall’s vast vaulted roof became gradually reflected, “creating a kind of double symmetry that induce[d] pure awe” (Gothamist). In the center sat Grimaud at her Steinway grand, playing tears become… streams become…, her thematic solo recital program that the New York Times called “an inspired selection of pieces by Berio, Takemitsu, Ravel and others that in various ways explore images and sensations of water.”

The pianist explains,

“This selection of music is not meant to be a bibliographical juxtaposition of all pieces for piano ever to bear a title having to do with the theme of water. Were that to be the case, I would of course present quite a few additional works by Liszt, Ravel and Debussy to name only the most obvious. Most of the 20th-century pieces seem to focus more on the colorful, decorative, atmospheric and poetic nature of water. To complete the range of expressive possibilities, a return to the source (no pun intended) seemed inevitable.”

From Albéniz’s Almeria and Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie to Berio’s Wasserklavier, “Grimaud displayed masterful fluency with each composer’s musical language. Her program was no mere wash of undulating arpeggios and waves of glissandi – each piece sounded utterly individual” (Bachtrack). After reprising the same aqueous program on her subsequent European tour, Grimaud brings it back to the U.S. this summer for the first appearance of her Caramoor residency, at which it will be complemented by the same Brahms sonata with which she made her debut there 17 years ago.

A detailed listing is provided below, and more information is available at For high-resolution photos, click here.


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About Caramoor

Caramoor is a performing arts center located on a unique 90-acre setting of Italianate architecture and gardens in Westchester County, NY. It enriches the lives of its audiences through innovative and diverse musical performances of the highest quality. Its mission also includes mentoring young professional musicians and providing educational programs for young children centered around music. Audiences are invited to come early to explore the beautiful grounds, tour the historic Rosen House and on special Sundays enjoy a delicious Afternoon Tea or unwind with a pre-concert picnic, and discover beautiful music in the relaxed settings of the Venetian Theater, Spanish Courtyard, Music Room of the Rosen House, and the magnificent gardens. Summer concerts take place in two outdoor theaters: the 1,508-seat, acoustically superb Venetian Theater and the more intimate, romantic 470-seat Spanish Courtyard. In the fall and winter all concerts are presented in the magnificent Music Room in the Rosen House. Caramoor’s gardens, also used for concerts and the Garden of Sonic Delights, are well worth the visit and include nine unique perennial gardens. Among them are a Sense Circle for the visually impaired, the Sunken Garden, a Butterfly Garden, the Tapestry Hedge, and the Iris and Peony Garden.


Caramoor presents Hélène Grimaud, 2015 Artist-in-Residence

July 31
Solo recital
Berio: Wasserklavier
Takemitsu: Rain Tree Sketch II
Fauré:  Barcarolle No. 5, Op. 66
Ravel: Jeux d’eau
Albéniz: Almeria
Liszt: Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este
Janácek: In the mists I
Debussy: La cathédrale engloutie
Brahms: Piano Sonata No. 2

Aug 2
Festival Finale
With Orchestra of St. Luke’s / Pablo Heras-Casado
Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor, Op. 15
(Also on program: Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 13, “Winter Dreams”)

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All concerts  made possible, in part, by ArtsWestchester with funds from the Westchester County Government.


All concerts made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature

© 21C Media Group, April 2015

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