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Pierre-Laurent Aimard Plays Bartók’s First with Boston Symphony, Returns to Carnegie Hall on U.S. Recital Tour, and Makes Pentatone Label Debut with Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, winner of the 2017 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, launches the new year with the first of three performances of Bartók’s First Piano Concerto at the Boston Symphony this Thursday (Jan 11–13). Back in the States this spring, he tours to Carnegie Hall (March 8) and six more key U.S. venues (March 1–13) with a solo recital program built around Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata and the eighth movement of Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux. Following the success of his complete renditions of the work at the Aldeburgh, Tanglewood, and Ravinia Festivals, the Grammy Award-winning French pianist releases his first recording of the Catalogue d’oiseaux to inaugurate an exclusive new contract with the Pentatone label. Further live accounts of the Catalogue, in Paris and Amsterdam, bookend Aimard’s characteristically full and varied spring European lineup. This is highlighted by the continuation of his first year as Artist-in-Residence of London’s Southbank Centre, which sees him play Ravel’s G-major concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra (Jan 21) and curate a full weekend dedicated to the music of Ligeti (May 11–13).

For his return to the Boston Symphony this week, Aimard reunites with French conductor François-Xavier Roth, who was a regular guest during the pianist’s tenure as Artistic Director of England’s Aldeburgh Festival. In Boston, he and Roth join forces with the orchestra for Bartók’s percussive First Piano Concerto, in which Aimard previously impressed the New York Times with his “dazzling and crystalline performance.” It was also with the Hungarian composer’s music that he scored his fifth Grammy nomination, for his Deutsche Grammophon recording of the Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion with Tamara Stefanovich; later this spring the two pianists reprise the work on a five-stop European tour with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski.

Between his two Bartók engagements, Aimard embarks on a seven-city U.S. recital tour that takes in San Diego, San Francisco, Schenectady, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York’s Carnegie Hall. A centerpiece of his program is Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata, widely considered one of the most important works of the composer’s third period and one of the most challenging in the entire solo piano repertoire. Aimard’s account of the “Hammerklavier” at last summer’s Ruhr Piano Festival impressed the Westfälische Rundschau as: “an interpretation of a high intellectual level, which nevertheless radiates overwhelming energy. … An evening of superlatives.” Demonstrating his “ingenious knack for juxtaposing old and new works to tease out fascinating resonances” (New York Times), Aimard pairs it with other, comparably pathbreaking pieces, including – with some variation between dates – works by Liszt, Ligeti, Scriabin, and Obukhov. At all venues, however, another focal point of the program is “Le courlis cendré” (The Eurasian Curlew), the eighth movement of Olivier Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux.

The late French composer is one of several 20th-century masters with whom Aimard enjoyed especially close personal and professional ties. As a former student of Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen’s wife, the pianist has championed his countryman’s music throughout his career, proving himself “a peerless interpreter of Messiaen’s music” (Boston Globe). In summer 2016, he concluded his seven-year artistic directorship of England’s Aldeburgh Festival with an all-day event devoted to his recital of the Catalogue, Messiaen’s monumental set of 13 piano pieces depicting the birds of Europe. The UK’s Telegraph pronounced this a “triumph,” the New York Times declared it “a landmark statement,” The Guardian chose it as one of the top ten musical events of the year, and The Arts Desk selected it as the very “Best of 2016.” Aimard performed similar programs in the States last summer, first as the centerpiece of “Tanglewood Takes Flight: A Celebration of Birds and Music with Mass Audubon,” and then in a dedicated solo recital at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival. As the Chicago Tribune reported, this was “one of the exceptional recitals of the summer.” The review continued:

“[The audience] was one of the quietest and most attentive in this writer’s experience, as if stunned into silence by the level of compositional invention and the surpassing artistry required to convey it. … Aimard’s prodigious technique allows you to hear not the work behind the work of art but its poetry. … Expectations are high for the release of his first complete recording of the Catalogue.”

Those expectations will be fulfilled this March, when Pentatone releases the pianist’s recording of Messiaen’s epic work as the inaugural title of their exclusive new partnership. Aimard reflects:

“I started to work on Catalogue with Yvonne Loriod and with Messiaen when I was a very young teenager, and waited my entire life to record it, so I’m delighted that with Pentatone this project becomes possible.”

Renaud Loranger, the Dutch label’s Vice President for Artists and Repertoire, adds:

“I have long admired Pierre-Laurent’s unparalleled artistry and uncanny, fascinating intellect. It is a great privilege to be developing recording projects with him that will certainly be recognized as landmark interpretations. His appetite for repertoire old and new is positively immense, and he will find at Pentatone a new artistic home where he can share his captivating insights with a broad audience of connoisseurs and newcomers alike.”

To celebrate the new recording, Aimard gives live performances of the Catalogue in a special “Weekend of Birds” at the Philharmonie de Paris and at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ. Click here to see Aimard talk about Messiaen and birdsong in “Pierre-Laurent Aimard: Birds at Tanglewood.”

Artistic Residency at London’s Southbank Centre, and more

This past fall, Aimard launched a prestigious three-year tenure as Artist-in-Residence of London’s Southbank Centre with an “impeccable performance” (Seen and Heard International) of Oiseaux exotiques, another of Messiaen’s birdsong-inspired works, with Nicholas Collon and the Aurora Orchestra. Next followed Mozart with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. As The Times of London observed:

“Immaculate octaves from the oboes and bassoons and popping-candy semiquavers from the strings framed Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s crisp reading of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major, a smart and witty dialogue in which the slow movement had the simplicity of a motet.”

Now Aimard, whose Ravel interpretations have been called “utterly sublime” (BBC Music), continues the residency with new year performances of the French composer’s Piano Concerto in G with the Philharmonia Orchestra under Pablo Heras-Casado at the Royal Festival Hall. Then, to conclude the first leg of his tenure, he curates a weekend dedicated to the music of György Ligeti. This sees the pianist perform the great modernist’s complete Études at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, besides joining violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, French horn player Marie-Luise Neunecker, and others for a chamber program featuring Ligeti’s Horn Trio, and undertaking his Piano Concerto with Nicholas Collon and the Aurora Orchestra. Aimard and Ligeti shared an intimate working relationship until the Hungarian composer’s death twelve years ago. Aimard premiered and made first recordings of a number of Ligeti’s piano compositions, won a 1997 Gramophone Award for his Sony Masterworks album of the Études, and inspired some of the composer’s most complex writing. As a result, he remains without peer as an exponent of Ligeti’s works, the composer himself pronouncing him “today’s leading interpreter of contemporary piano music.” Aimard showcases Ligeti’s music again this spring, performing Books 1 to 3 of the Études and Musica ricercata at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ.

The coming months also see the pianist give solo recitals in Germany, Austria, and Hungary, including a date at the Vienna Musikverein; spearhead a special (and already sold-out) Stockhausen project with Tamara Stefanovich and composer/sound artist Marco Stroppa at the new Elbphilharmonie Hamburg; anchor a performance of Brahms’s German Requiem for soloists, choir, and piano four-hands at the Salzburg Festival; celebrate Elliott Carter with England’s Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; and undertake concerto collaborations with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, and Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

High-resolution photos may be downloaded here.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: upcoming engagements

Jan 11–13

Boston, MA

Boston Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth

BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 1

Jan 19

London, UK

Royal Academy of Music

Academy Soloists Ensemble / Aimard to direct from keyboard

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19

Jan 21

London, UK

Southbank Centre: Royal Festival Hall

Philharmonia Orchestra / Pablo Heras-Casado

RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G

Jan 28

Birmingham, UK

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group / Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla

CARTER: Double Trio; Epigrams for piano trio; Two Thoughts About the Piano; Two Controversies and a Conversation

Jan 31

Paris, France

Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France / Mikko Franck

BEETHOVEN: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat, Op. 19

Feb 8 & 9

Strasbourg, France

Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg / Marko Letonja

RAVEL: Piano Concerto in D for the left hand

Feb 15–22: Solo recitals in Germany, Austria, and Hungary

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat, Op. 106 (“Hammerklavier”)

PROKOFIEV: Sarcasms, Op. 17

OBUKHOV: Révélation

SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 10, Op. 70

SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 5 in F-sharp, Op. 53

Feb 15: Grünwald, Germany (Gemeinde Grünwald)

Feb 17: Donaueschingen, Germany (Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde Donaueschingen)

Feb 19: Vienna, Austria (Musikverein)

Feb 22: Budapest, Hungary (Jakobi Concerts)

March 1–13: U.S. solo recital tour

OBUKHOV: Révélation (San Diego, Schenectady, NYC)

OBUKHOV: Création d’or (San Diego, Schenectady, NYC)

LISZT: Nuages gris, S. 199 (San Diego, Schenectady, NYC)

LISZT: Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este (San Diego, Schenectady, NYC)

MESSIAEN: No. 8, “Le courlis cendré,” from Catalogue d’oiseaux (all locations)

SCRIABIN: Piano Sonata No. 5 in F-sharp, Op. 53 (San Diego, Schenectady, NYC)

LIGETI: Musica Ricercata (San Francisco, Baltimore, Philadelphia)

LIGETI: Études (Chicago)

BEETHOVEN: Piano Sonata No. 29 in B-flat, Op. 106 (“Hammerklavier”) (all locations)

March 1: San Diego, CA (La Jolla Music Society)

March 2: San Francisco, CA (San Francisco Performances)

March 4: Schenectady, NY (Union College Concert Series)

March 6: Chicago, IL (University of Chicago Presents)

March 8: New York, NY (Carnegie Hall)

March 11: Baltimore, ML (Shriver Hall Concert Series)

March 13: Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia Chamber Music Society)

March 18

Paris, France

Cité de la Musique: Philharmonie de Paris

MESSIAEN: Catalogue d’oiseaux

March 27–April 15: tour with Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski

BARTÓK: Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion (with Tamara Stefanovich, piano)

March 27: Dresden, Germany

March 28: Luxembourg (Philharmonie)

April 9: Hamburg, Germany

April 10: Frankfurt, Germany

April 15: Lisbon, Portugal

April 5–7

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ

April 5:

LIGETI: Concerto for Piano (with Asko|Schönberg / Reinbert de Leeuw)

April 6:

LIGETI: Études, Books 1–3; Musica ricercata

April 7:

LIGETI: Horn Trio (with Joseph Puglia, violin; Marie Luise Neunecker, horn)

April 7 (late-night):

LIGETI: Etude No. 8, arr. for piano and percussion (with Daniel Ciampolini, percussion)

NANCARROW (arr. by F. Boffard & Aimard): Etudes for two pianos, Nos. 4 & 9

(with Tamara Stefanovich)

LIGETI (arr. for a couple of hands): Poème symphonique

LIGETI: Improvisation on Etude No. 4 for piano and percussion

(with Daniel Ciampolini, percussion)

April 19

Ruhr Valley, Germany

Klavier-Festival Ruhr

VARIOUS: Le Tombeau de Claude Debussy


BARTÓK: Sostenuto, rubato from Eight Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Op. 20

GOOSSENS: Hommage à Debussy

STRAVINSKY: Fragment of the Symphonies of Wind Instruments in memory of Claude Achille Debussy

DUKAS: La plainte, au loin, du faune

DEBUSSY: Images, Books I and II

DEBUSSY: Études (complete)

April 22

Berlin, Germany

Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin / Robin Ticciati

SCHOENBERG: Piano Concerto, Op. 42

May 4

Basel, Switzerland

Collegium Musicum Basel / Kevin Griffiths

“French Connections”

DEBUSSY: Children’s Corner

RAVEL: Piano Concerto in G

May 11–13

London, England

Southbank Centre: Queen Elizabeth Hall

May 11:

LIGETI: No. 1, “Monument,” from Three Pieces for Two Pianos (with Tamara Stefanovich, piano)

LIGETI: Horn Trio (with Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin; Marie-Luise Neunecker, horn)

LIGETI: Etude No. 8, arr. for piano and percussion (with Daniel Ciampolini, percussion)

NANCARROW (arr. by F. Boffard & Aimard): Etudes for two pianos, Nos. 4 & 9

(with Tamara Stefanovich, piano)

LIGETI (arr. for a couple of hands): Poème symphonique

LIGETI: Improvisation on Etude No. 4 for piano and percussion (with Daniel Ciampolini, percussion)

May 12:

LIGETI: Études

May 13:

LIGETI: Concerto for Piano (with Aurora Orchestra / Nicholas Collon)

May 19

Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg Festival

BRAHMS: A German Requiem for soloists, choir, and piano four-hands

(with Genia Kühmeier, soprano; Andrè Schuen, baritone; Markus Hinterhäuser, piano; Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus / Jérémie Rhorer)

May 23

Hamburg, Germany

Elbphilharmonie Hamburg (Kleiner Saal)

STOCKHAUSEN: Klavierstücke I–XI; Mantra (with Tamara Stefanovich, piano; Marco Stroppa, sound)

May 27–30

Duisburg, Germany

Klavier-Festival Ruhr

May 27: evening of poems written and read by Alfred Brendel with music by Ligeti and Kurtag

May 28–30: masterclasses

June 2

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ

MESSIAEN: Catalogue d’oiseaux

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© 21C Media Group, January 2018

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