Press Room

Pierre-Laurent Aimard in New York & Cleveland

The remarkable French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard is devoting much
of his 2008-09 season to performances of works by two composers he has
long championed and whose centennials he is currently celebrating:
Elliott Carter, born in New York City on December 11, 1908, and the
late Olivier Messiaen, born December 10, 1908, in Avignon, France.

next U.S. performance will be on November 23 in New York, presented by
the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center as part of its “Night
Fantasies” festival. The pianist’s characteristically wide-ranging
program includes Chopin’s Berceuse (Lullaby); Scriabin’s Poème-Nocturne; two works from Messiaen’s Catalogue of birds, depicting the lark and the tawny owl, both night creatures; and Debussy’s Suite bergamasque, best known for its deathless moonlight music, Clair de lune. Bartók’s Out of Doors suite and Robert Schumann’s rarely played Gesänge der Frühe
(Dawn Songs) complete the program, which Aimard also performed at
London’s 2008 BBC Proms. The five Schumann miniatures date from the end
of the composer’s career, when, according to Gramophone, “his
final mental derangement was only months away … Full in sound,
complicated and sometimes overwritten, and it’s not difficult to
discern an unhinged quality in them.”

Following up last
season’s chart-topping Bach: Art of Fugue, Aimard continues his
exciting relationship with Deutsche Grammophon with the October release
of his new solo recording, Hommage à Messiaen. An incredible collection of music, the recording contains Aimard’s interpretation of eight of Olivier Messiaen’s Preludes as well as selections from Quatre Etudes de rhythme. The CD was named “Disc of the Month” in the November issue of Gramophone;
in the review, Arnold Whittall writes, “I’ll be surprised if a more
accomplished centenary tribute to Messiaen appears than this one…
Aimard’s technical virtuosity comes through in the evenness of his
voicing and the pearly delicacy with which Messiaen’s intricate
ornamental writing is projected.”

In 2008, Aimard served
as the Artistic Director of “From the Canyons to the Stars,” the
Southbank Centre’s year-long Messiaen festival. For the festival’s
finale on December 10 (the centenary of Messiaen’s birth), Aimard will
join fellow Messiaen pupil and associate Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble
Intercontemporain to perform an evening of works by Messiaen and
Boulez. Speaking about the festival and Messiaen in general, Aimard
offered this insight into the composer:

measurer of time and craftsman in sound and color, has influenced
generations of composers. His spirituality, his love of nature, and the
sheer boldness of his music communicate directly with audiences. This
gentle dreamer with a collector’s soul worked independently of
contemporary trends – unclassifiable because, piece by piece, he
constructed a truly unique language. It is my great wish that this
festival, in homage to Messiaen, will illuminate the many aspects of
this great original.

Aimard has also recently played several performances of Duet
for piano and orchestra, a new work composed for him by Britain’s
George Benjamin. After the world premiere with the Cleveland Orchestra
at the Lucerne Festival in August 2008, Aimard gave the U.S. premiere
of the work on September 25 in Cleveland and will follow it with a New
York premiere at Carnegie Hall on February 5, 2009, also with the
Clevelanders. Benjamin’s 12-minute Duet and Aimard’s performance of it were acclaimed by critics in Lucerne and Cleveland. Britain’s Guardian
stated: “Benjamin writes music of stark intensity, distilled to its
essentials: individual notes and chords in the piano part and ghostly
flickers of string writing … Aimard’s technical and musical command was
remarkable.” After the U.S. premiere, the Cleveland Plain Dealer declared:

An imaginative exploration of instrumental timbre, Duet
seeks to blur distinctions between piano and orchestra. … The
overlaps are spine-tingling. Anyone listening with closed eyes could
easily conflate piano and wood-block, piano and trombone, harp and
bass, instruments that usually function as polar opposites. … Aimard,
often playing single notes, was a sensitive, vibrant partner,
confirming Duet as an experiment worth repeating.

The Akron Beacon Journal review read, in part:

It’s hard to imagine another pianist taking this idiosyncratic work
under his wing as persuasively as Aimard, who is a whiz at contemporary
music and a communicative performer no matter what he plays. … It’s an
intriguing and skillfully crafted work, and this compelling performance
by soloist and orchestra deserves many more listenings.

his New York City performances in February, Aimard gives another solo
recital in Chicago on February 8 and returns to his artistic
partnership with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for February 13, 14,
and 15 concerts in the Twin Cities.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: select concert engagements through February 2009

Nov 23: Society for Ethical Culture, New York NY

“Night Fantasies IV,” presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Schumann: Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133
Chopin: Berceuse, Op. 57
Debussy: Suite bergamasque
Messiaen: “La chouette hulotte“, “L’alouette lulu“ from Catalogue d’oiseaux
Scriabin: Poème-nocturne
Bartok: Szabadban (“Out of Doors”)

Dec 10: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London, UK

Ensemble Intercontemporain / Pierre Boulez
Messiaen: Couleurs de la cité céleste; Sept Haïkaï
Boulez: Sur Incises

Feb 5, 2009: Zankel Hall, New York NY
“Carter in Context”: solo recital of excerpts from
Bach: Art of Fugue and works by Elliott Carter

Feb 6: Carnegie Hall, New York NY
Cleveland Orchestra / Franz Welser-Möst
Benjamin: Duet for Piano and Orchestra (NY premiere)

Feb 8: Orchestra Hall, Chicago IL
Solo Recital

Feb 13-15: Minneapolis/St. Paul MN
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano and director
Beethoven: Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2
Benjamin: At First Light for Chamber Orchestra

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