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Pierre-Laurent Aimard is Artist-in-Residence at Mostly Mozart Festival

Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s summer opened in Europe, where the “ferociously intelligent musician” (Financial Times) won esteem for his second tenure as Artistic Director of England’s fabled Aldeburgh Festival.  After returning to the UK to play George Benjamin and Mozart at London’s BBC Proms, the “brilliant French pianist” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times) now turns his attention to festivals on this side of the Atlantic.  At Tanglewood (Aug 10) he performs chamber music by Bach, Ligeti, and Elliott Carter, as he will also do in his first appearance at New York’s Mostly Mozart Festival.  As Artist-in-Residence of this venerable four-week festival, Aimard curates and leads six concerts exploring “Bach and Polyphonies,” with musical partners including the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the International Contemporary Ensemble (Aug 13-16).


Aimard’s impact in second season as Artistic Director of Aldeburgh Festival

 For his second season as Artistic Director of England’s Aldeburgh Festival (June 11-27), Aimard’s programming embraced a wealth of repertoire from Bach to Benjamin and boasted artistic collaborations of the highest caliber.  In something of a coup, he succeeded in inviting Pierre Boulez to the festival for the first time; as Fiona Maddocks noted in the Observer, “the fact that Pierre Boulez was the celebrated guest, [although] not obviously a Britten sympathizer, confirms the sense of Aldeburgh moving on but remaining true to its pioneering spirit.”  The celebrated French composer/conductor led his Ensemble Intercontemporain in the world premiere of Elliott Carter’s “exquisite settings of poems by Marianne Moore” (Maddocks), titled What Are Years?, prompting the Sunday Times’s Paul Driver to observe: “[A] festival capable of boldly incorporating its critique and antithesis must be in robust health.  Boulez is a powerful injection into the festival’s veins, and the link with the aged Carter has been nothing but rejuvenating.  When Boulez conducts a Carter premiere here with a French ensemble, you can’t but take Aldeburgh for a truly international concern.”  The Financial Times confirmed that “the festival’s ability to present today’s most illustrious composers, and not just those from the UK, is crucially important,” and credited this directly to Aimard’s leadership: “Pierre-Laurent Aimard, pianist and artistic director, has set his sights on making Aldeburgh the summer destination of choice for the most distinguished composers of the day and the final weekend of this year’s festival displayed his pulling power.”

It was not just the programming but also the performances themselves that made such an impression.  Berio’s Recital 1 was a “virtuoso piece of music-theater, superbly sung and acted by Susan Bickley” (The Times), and with Aimard himself wielding the baton, the “brilliant fireworks display” of Boulez’s Derive 1 was “brilliantly interpreted”. Benjamin’s “no-less-dazzling piece…At First Light…was distinguished by breath-taking contributions from oboist Nicholas Daniel and piccolo trumpet Paul Mayes” (The Independent), and under the direction of John Eliot Gardiner, Bach’s monumental Mass in B minor was “simply awe-inspiring,” rousing the Irish Times to marvel: “performances of Bach rarely sound quite as perfect as this.”  At the keyboard, Aimard’s contribution was substantial.  His solo “Collage-Montage 2010” recital displayed the “brilliant virtuosity” (Daily Telegraph) for which he is justly renowned, while his duo recital with violinist Thomas Zehetmair featured “performances of astounding scope, stamina, and technical security…that really took the breath away” (Guardian).  All told, it was hardly surprising that this season’s festival was described by one Aldeburgh stalwart (Maddocks in the Observer) as ‘the best in ten years’”.


Aimard is Mostly Mozart Festival’s Artist-in-Residence after return to Tanglewood

 Aimard returns to Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival this summer after making his debut last year, when he presented “two programs, drawing full houses and prolonged ovations, that dynamically redefined the Mostly Mozart concept,” according to Anthony Tommasini’s New York Times review. 

This season Aimard has been appointed Mostly Mozart’s Artist-in-Residence, in which capacity he curates and leads a six-part exploration of “Bach and Polyphonies.”  Contemporary music by composers including Xenakis, Carter, Birtwistle, Berio, Ligeti, and Lachenmann will be juxtaposed with performances of traditional Georgian polyphony, all interspersed with the music of Bach, widely considered the ultimate standard in contrapuntal writing.  Aimard himself performs in four of the six programs, two of which explore the Baroque master’s playful side through concerts of keyboard concertos and feature – as last season – the Grammy Award-winning Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Aimard’s frequent collaborator. 

Aimard makes his first festival appearance at the second concert of the festival – the first in Mostly Mozart’s “Little Night Music” series, which presents late-night candlelit recitals in the intimate setting of the Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse. For this performance on August 13, Aimard is joined by a trio of musicians from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe – violinist Mats Zetterqvist, flutist Clara Andrada de la Calle, and Jonathan Williams on French horn – in a program juxtaposing excerpts from Bach’s Musical Offering with selections by Elliott Carter and Ligeti. At the festival’s opening concert earlier in the evening, with an introduction from Aimard, the outstanding all-male vocal group Ensemble Basiani performs Georgian folk and sacred songs, offset by Bach’s great motet Jesu, meine Freude and 20th-century choral classics from Ligeti and Xenakis, all performed by Ars Nova Copenhagen under the direction of Paul Hillier, accompanied by Canadian organist Paolo Bordignon.

The performance on Saturday, August 14 features the beloved fifth Brandenburg Concerto coupled with traditional Georgian choral music from Ensemble Basiani.  Later in the evening, in the second “Little Night Music” concert, Paul Hillier again conducts Ars Nova Copenhagen in a program that has English Renaissance composers Taverner, Mundy, and Byrd rubbing shoulders with contemporary Antipodeans Jack Body and Ross Edwards, and America’s own Pulitzer Prize-winning David Lang.  The following evening, on Sunday, August 15, two further Bach keyboard concertos are performed with works by Boulez and Carter.

Aimard looks to Bach’s The Art of Fugue at his final Mostly Mozart appearance, on Monday, August 16, when he joins conductor Ludovic Morlot and the International Contemporary Ensemble, “a powerhouse of new-music programming” (New Yorker).  The program includes and takes as its theme transcriptions/excerpts from Bach’s keyboard masterpiece, exploring the relationship between the work’s counterpoint and the polyphony of newer works and composers, namely George Benjamin’s transparent, colorful polyphony and use of the medieval hochetus technique; the theatrical polyphony of Harrison Birtwistle; and Helmut Lachenmann’s Mouvement.

 Aimard’s Mostly Mozart chamber recital on August 13 will be previewed three days earlier – with the same line-up of musicians and an addition to the program of Carter’s Two Diversions for solo piano – when the pianist returns to the Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, MA on Tuesday, August 10.  Like the music of Bach, the works of Elliott Carter and Ligeti are signature Aimard fare; indeed, Ligeti himself considers Aimard “today’s leading interpreter of contemporary piano music,” by virtue of “his masterful technique, the depth of his sensitivity, and the many nuances of his music, as well as through his absolute identification with the spirit of every single work he plays.”


Pierre-Laurent Aimard: August 2010 engagements

Monday, August 2
BBC Proms
London, UK
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K.595
Ligeti: Musica ricercata – No. 2: Mesto, rigido e ceremoniale
Benjamin: Duet
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Nott

Tuesday, August 10 at 8pm
Tanglewood Festival
Tanglewood, MA
Seiji Ozawa Hall
Bach: Sonatas for flute, violin, and piano from The Musical Offering
Carter: Two Diversions for solo piano
Carter: Riconoscenza for solo violin
Carter: Tri-Tribute, three solo works for piano
Carter: Scrivo in vento for solo flute
Bach: Canon from The Musical Offering (flute and piano; violin and flute; flute, violin, and piano)
Ligeti: Trio for violin, horn, and piano
Musicians from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Friday, August 13 – Monday, August 16
Mostly Mozart Festival
New York, NY
Aimard performs in all concerts except where noted

Friday, August 13 at 7:30pm
Mostly Mozart Festival
Alice Tully Hall
(**Aimard not performing**)
Bach: Jesu, meine Freude
Trad.: Georgian Polyphony
Ligeti: Lux aeterna
Xenakis: Nuits
Ensemble Basiani
Ars Nova Copenhagen / Paul Hillier
Paolo Bordignon, organ
Introduction by Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Friday, August 13 at 10:30pm
Mostly Mozart Festival
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
Bach: Sonatas for flute, violin, and piano from The Musical Offering
Carter: Tri-Tribute, three solo works for piano
Carter: Scrivo in vento for solo flute
Carter: Riconoscenza for solo violin
Bach: Canon from The Musical Offering (flute, violin, and piano)
Ligeti: Trio for violin, horn, and piano
Musicians from the Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Saturday, August 14 at 7:30pm
Mostly Mozart Festival
Alice Tully Hall
Bach: Keyboard Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052)
Traditional Georgian polyphony
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D major (BWV 1050)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Ensemble Basiani

Saturday, August 14 at 10:30pm
Mostly Mozart Festival
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse
(**Aimard not performing**)
Taverner: Kyrie “Leroy”
Taverner: Gloria, from “The Western Wind” Mass
Body: Five Lullabies
Edward: Sacred Kingfisher Psalms (North American premiere)
Lang: For Love Is Strong
Taverner: In trouble and adversity
Mundy: O Lord, the maker of all things
Byrd: Agnus Dei
Ars Nova Copenhagen
/ Paul Hillier

Sunday, August 15 at 3pm
Mostly Mozart Festival
Alice Tully Hall
Bach: Piano Concerto in A major (BWV 1055)
Carter: Piano Quintet
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major (BWV 1048)
Pierre Boulez: Memoriale
Bach: Piano Concerto in F minor (BWV 1056)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe

Monday, August 16 at 7:30pm
Mostly Mozart Festival
Rose Theater
Purcell (trans. Benjamin): Fantasia VII
Benjamin: Antara
Birtwistle: selections from Bach Measures, after J.S. Bach: Orgelbüchlein
Birtwistle: Slow Frieze
Bach (arr. Berio): Contrapunctus XIX
Lachenmann: Mouvement
International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) / Ludovic Morlot

Thursday, August 19
Bad Reichenhall
Bach: Sonata for Cello and Piano in G minor (BWV 1029)
Bartók: 14 Bagatelles
Dvorák: Piano Quintet, Op. 81
Valérie Aimard / Tamara Stefanovich / Kuss-Quartet

Friday, August 20
Bad Reichenhall
Beethoven: String Quartet in F major, Op. 135
Kurtág: Signs, Games and Messages; excerpts from Játékok
Schubert: String Quintet in C major (D. 956)
Valérie Aimard / Kuss-Quartet

Saturday, August 21
Bad Reichenhall
Liszt: Les jeux d’eau á la Villa d’Este
Boulez: Une page d’éphémeride
Ravel: Miroirs
Debussy: Sonata for cello and piano
Mendelssohn: Sonata for cello and piano, No. 2, Op. 58
Valérie Aimard

Sunday, August 22
Bad Reichenhall
Haydn: Variations in F minor (Hob. XVII:20)
Haydn: Piano Sonata in A-flat major (Hob. XVI:43)
Carter: 90+; Two Diversions; Matribute; Sistribute; Fratribute
Brahms: Sonata for two pianos, Op. 34b
Tamara Stefanovich

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© 21C Media Group, July 2010

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