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Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays Ravel with Boulez on new DG CD

 Today, October 5, sees the release of Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s new recording for Deutsche Grammophon, an all-Ravel album featuring the two piano concertos with a solo work, Miroirs.  Aimard recorded both concertos live with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra earlier this year, in performances that the Cleveland Plain-Dealer called “luminous”; after praising the conductor’s “insightful, authoritative” interpretations, reviewer Zachary Lewis observed: “The other incontrovertible star this weekend is pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, soloist in Ravel’s two piano concertos.  Like Boulez, the peerless nature of his performances…is no surprise.”  The album is completed with Aimard’s solo performance of Ravel’s Miroirs, a five-movement work for solo piano.

According to the pianist, working on Ravel with Boulez was “a dream come true.”  The two French masters have a long and rich personal and professional history together, which dates from the time Boulez selected Aimard as the original pianist and keyboard player for his Ensemble Intercontemporain in 1976.  They were honored this spring with a Grammy nomination for the last recording they made together, of Bartók’s Concerto for Two Pianos with pianist Tamara Stefanovich, which the London Times considered a “jewel.”  Both pianist and conductor have also independently collaborated many times with the Cleveland Orchestra, and back in 1997 they joined forces to record Messiaen’s Réveil des oiseaux with the orchestra for Deutsche Grammophon, on “a disc that promises to give ever more subtle rewards on repeated hearing” (Gramophone).

For Aimard, Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G (1929-31) and Concerto for the Left Hand (1929-30) form a genuine pair.  Being among the composer’s last works, both were written after his travels in the USA and are deeply infused with the idioms and harmonies of jazz.  Yet the two works are very different in mood.  Where the G major Concerto is, according to the pianist, “a light-hearted and carefree piece, with influences drawn from jazz and Basque folk music, together with a number of mechanical passages, brilliant writing for the piano and seductive orchestration, the whole thing held together with supreme elegance,” its companion piece is contrastingly dark.  “Here the dominant mood is one of drama, everything is coiled up tight like a spring,” Boulez explains, “and when Ravel uses jazz rhythms, for instance, the result is an astonishing radical language.”  Commissioned by a pianist who had lost his right arm in combat, the Left-Hand Concerto remains a monument to the tragedy of the First World War.  And its solo writing is notoriously difficult; as Aimard describes, the left hand alone “has to sound like two hands – the great challenge of the piece is to create this illusion, a game with the limitations of a single hand.”

Miroirs (1904-5) comprises five movements, each of which Ravel dedicated to a different member of the French impressionist group “Les Apaches”; each movement was intended to evoke in sound its dedicatee’s reflection as seen in the mirror.  The work features prominently in Aimard’s high-profile U.S. recital tour this December, at Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (Dec 1), Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center (Dec 3), Chicago’s Symphony Center (Dec 5), and New York City’s Carnegie Hall (Dec 8).

Further details of the new CD release, including audio clips, are available at


Ravel: Piano Concertos; Miroirs
Cleveland Orchestra / Pierre Boulez
   Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G
   Concerto for the Left Hand for Piano and Orchestra in D
   Miroirs for solo piano

Deutsche Grammophon

Also available as download
Release date: October 5


Upcoming U.S. engagements
December 1
Los Angeles, CA
Solo recital
Walt Disney Concert Hall
December 3
Philadelphia, PA
Solo recital
Philadelphia Chamber Music Society
December 5
Chicago, Il
Solo recital
Symphony Center
December 8
New York, NY
Solo recital
Carnegie Hall


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© 21C Media Group, October 2010

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