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Pierre-Laurent Aimard Returns to U.S. for Fantasia-Themed Solo Recitals in Philadelphia, Chicago & San Francisco (Feb 23–27), Followed by Messiaen with Cincinnati Symphony (March 1 & 2)

Pierre-Laurent Aimard Returns to U.S. for Fantasia-Themed Solo Recitals in Philadelphia, Chicago & San Francisco (Feb 23–27), Followed by Messiaen with Cincinnati Symphony (March 1 & 2)

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Pierre-Laurent Aimard (photo: Marco Borggreve)

(January 2024) — Last fall, Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s solo recital in the New York Philharmonic’s “Artist Spotlight” series offered “the abstract ideal of a classical concert made real, showing the greatness of contemporary music and its relevance to the past” (New York Classical Review). Now the Grammy-winning French pianist returns to the States for thoughtfully curated solo recitals exploring the keyboard fantasy genre in Philadelphia (Feb 23), Chicago (Feb 25) and San Francisco (Feb 27). He goes on to perform Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles with Matthias Pintscher and the Cincinnati Symphony (March 1 & 2), before heading back to Europe for further orchestral Messiaen collaborations in Paris (March 30) and Dresden (June 9–11), as well as the world premiere of a new concerto, commissioned for him from Clara Iannotta, in Cologne (May 12). These winter and spring engagements follow the success of the pianist’s recent centennial tributes to Ligeti, which culminated with acclaimed fall performances in London and New York, and of his new Bartók concerto cycle, recorded with Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony, a finalist for the 2024 International Classic Music Awards.

Solo “fantasy” recitals in Chicago, San Francisco & Philadelphia (Feb 23–27)

Aimard returns to the States next month for solo recitals in Chicago (Feb 25), San Francisco (Feb 27) and Philadelphia, where he pairs his performance with a masterclass (Feb 23). Spanning almost four centuries of music, his program deconstructs the keyboard fantasy, a genre whose improvisatory roots let its composers’ imaginations run free. Examples by Sweelinck, Mozart, C.P.E. Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and American experimentalist Charles Ives, who celebrates his sesquicentenary this year, share the program in Chicago with George Benjamin’s Fantasy on Iambic Rhythm, and in San Francisco and Philadelphia with Night Fantasies by the late Elliott Carter.

After a similar exploration of the fantasia form in La Jolla, the San Diego Union-Tribune marveled: “There have been few piano recitals this season so thoughtfully curated as the one that Pierre-Laurent Aimard gave. … A fascinating, unforgettable concert.” Likewise, when he performed his fantasy-themed program at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Seen and Heard International reflected:

“Recitals by Pierre-Laurent Aimard are never going to be less than fascinating. His quick mind and questing spirit see to that. … If only all piano recitals showed this level of commitment to ideas, to the music of our time, to connecting threads across centuries.”

The fantasia program also takes the pianist to Italy for solo recitals in Florence (Feb 10), Avezzano (Feb 16) and Rome (Feb 17).

Messiaen in Cincinnati (March 1 & 2), Paris (March 30) & beyond

The late Olivier Messiaen is one of the modernist 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).

On the heels of his U.S. recital tour, Aimard joins the Cincinnati Symphony and Matthias Pintscher for multimedia performances of Des canyons aux étoiles (“From the Canyons to the Stars”). Inspired by Messiaen’s visits to Utah’s Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, the French composer’s epic, otherworldly masterpiece will be accompanied by immersive and evocative video art (March 1 & 2).

Later this spring, Aimard also undertakes two of Messiaen’s orchestral works with leading European ensembles, performing Oiseaux exotiques with Cristian Măcelaru and the Orchestre national de France (March 30) and the Turangalîla-Symphonie – as heard on the pianist’s 2001 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic – with Myung-Whun Chung and the Staatskapelle Dresden (June 9–11).

Aimard also joins pianist Tamara Stefanovich for a two-piano recital in Madrid featuring Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen (April 15), as heard on the duo’s 2022 Pentatone release, Visions, and Messiaen is on the program once again in St. Pölten, Austria (May 1) and at Italy’s Piano City Milano festival (May 19), at both of which Aimard gives solo recitals of the composer’s Catalogue d’oiseaux. His 2018 Pentatone recording of the work was one of the Sunday Times’s Best Albums of the Year, a Gramophone Editor’s Choice and a German Music Critics’ Award winner, while one track from the album was selected as one of the New York Times’s “25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2018.”

Ligeti: spring Paris recital, following fall successes in London & NYC

Following last year’s centennial celebrations of the birth of György Ligeti, with whom he shared an intimate working relationship until the Hungarian composer’s death in 2006, Aimard performs Ligeti’s Musica ricercata at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris. There it shares a program with other 20th-century works by Schoenberg, Cage and György Kurtág, all interspersed with selections from Nobel laureate Imre Kertész’s Being Without Destiny, as read by French-Greek character actor Denis Podalydès (April 28).

After spring and summer 2023 performances of Ligeti’s music in Berlin, Paris, Seoul and at the Aldeburgh, Ruhr and Salzburg festivals, last fall Aimard headlined musical tributes to the composer at London’s Southbank Centre and by the New York Philharmonic. In London, his all-Ligeti solo recital and account of the composer’s Piano Concerto prompted the Guardian to declare: “Aimard’s probing way with this repertory, richly coloured and profound in its understanding, remains unique.” Similarly, the New York Times pronounced his reprise of the concerto with the New York Philharmonic and Susanna Mälkki “a tremendous performance.” As for his solo recital in the Philharmonic’s “Artist Spotlight” recital series, which juxtaposed selected Ligeti Études with works reflecting their cultural inspirations, the New York Classical Review marveled:

“This was an extraordinary experience – beautiful, profoundly intelligent, and fun. It was the abstract ideal of a classical concert made real, showing the greatness of contemporary music and its relevance to the past. Aimard is one of the great pianists of the last 40 years and probably the single finest Ligeti player there is.”

As the New York Times concluded: “The New York Philharmonic can surely have found no more suitable a soloist than Aimard to help observe the centennial of Ligeti’s birth.”

Iannotta premiere and more in Europe

Later this spring at “ACHT BRÜCKEN,” the Cologne Music Triennale, Aimard gives the world premiere of the purple fuchsia bled upon the ground, a concerto written for him by Berlin-based Italian composer Clara Iannotta, whose numerous honors include the Hindemith Prize, Ernst von Siemens Prize and three German Record Critics’ Awards. A new WDR Symphony commission, the work will receive its first performance from Aimard with the German orchestra, under the baton of Swiss-Australian conductor Elena Schwarz (May 12).

Aimard’s other spring European engagements include solo recitals of Bach, Schubert, Schumann and Schoenberg at Norway’s Bergen International Festival (May 28) and England’s Chipping Campden Festival (May 16), where he also gives a masterclass.

Bartók concertos: CD success

Aimard drew heartfelt accolades for his complete Bartók concerto cycle with the San Francisco Symphony and Esa-Pekka Salonen, released last September by Pentatone. Reaching number seven on the UK’s classical chart, the album was selected as a finalist for the 2024 International Classic Music Awards. In a five-star review, the UK’s Sunday Times observed: “You know just within a couple of minutes these recordings are going to be special. … Superlative this absolutely is.” Gramophone called the release “a left-field Awards contender that some will find genuinely haunting,” and veteran Radio 3 critic Rob Cowan confided: “This for me is the best set of Bartók piano concertos we’ve had in a very long while, much to be recommended.”

In live performance, Aimard revisits Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto with the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra and Sylvain Cambreling (May 5). His other upcoming orchestral collaborations comprise Luigi Nono’s Como una ola de fuerza y luz with Milan’s La Scala Orchestra (Jan 22–25), Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto with the Berlin Radio Symphony (March 9), and concertos by Ravel and George Benjamin with the State Orchestra of Lower Saxony (March 17 & 18).

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Pierre-Laurent Aimard: upcoming engagements
Jan 22, 24 & 25
Milan, Italy
Teatro alla Scala
La Scala Orchestra / Ingo Metzmacher
NONO: Como una ola de fuerza y luz (with Serena Sáenz, soprano; electric tape)

Feb 10, 16 & 17: Fantasy-themed solo recitals in Italy

Feb 10: Florence (incl. masterclass)

Feb 16: Avezzano

Feb 17: Rome
MOZART: Fantasia in D minor, K. 397
SWEELINCK: Echo Fantasia
MOZART: Fantasia in C minor, K. 475
Andrei VOLKONSKY: Musica stricta (fantasia ricercata)
MOZART: Fantasia in F minor (fragment) K.Anh. 32
C.P.E. BACH: Fantasia in C
MOZART: Fantasia in C minor, K. 396
BEETHOVEN: Fantasia in G minor, Op. 77
George BENJAMIN: Fantasy on Iambic Rhythm

Feb 23, 25 & 27: Fantasy-themed solo recitals in the U.S.A

Feb 23: Philadelphia, PA (Philadelphia Chamber Music Society; incl. masterclass)

Feb 25: Chicago, IL (Symphony Center)

Feb 27: San Francisco, CA (Herbst Theatre)
MOZART: Fantasia in C minor, K. 475
C.P.E. BACH: Fantasia in C
BEETHOVEN: Fantasia in G minor, Op. 77
CHOPIN: Polonaise no. 7 in A-flat “Polonaise-fantaisie”
IVES: The Celestial Railroad, “Phantasy”
CARTER: Night Fantasies (Philadelphia & San Francisco only)
SWEELINCK: Echo Fantasia (Philadelphia & San Francisco only)
George BENJAMIN: Fantasy on Iambic Rhythm (Chicago only)
SWEELINCK: Fantasia chromatica (Chicago only)

March 1 & 2
Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra / Matthias Pintscher
MESSIAEN: Des canyons aux étoiles

March 9
Berlin, Germany
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra / Petr Popelka
SCHOENBERG: Piano Concerto

March 17 & 18
Hanover, Germany
Hanover State Symphony Orchestra / Stephan Zilias
RAVEL: Piano Concerto in D (for left hand)
George BENJAMIN: Duet for piano and orchestra

March 30
Paris, France
Orchestre national de France / Cristian Măcelaru
MESSIAEN: Oiseaux exotiques

April 15
Madrid, Spain
Recital with Tamara Stefanovich, piano
RAVEL: “Entre cloches” from Sites auriculaires
Vassos NICOLAOU: Chimes
ENESCU: “Carillon nocturne” from Suite No. 3
KNUSSEN: Prayer Bell Sketch
BIRTWISTLE: Keyboard Engine
MESSIAEN: Visions de l’Amen

April 28
Paris, France
Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
LIGETI: Musica ricercata
SCHOENBERG: Six Little Piano Pieces
KURTÁG: Hommage à Vidovszky
CAGE: 4’33”
György KURTÁG: Játékok
(Interspersed with readings from Imre Kertész’s Being Without Destiny by Denis Podalydès)

May 1
Pölten, Austria
Festspielhaus St. Pölten
MESSIAEN: Catalogue d’oiseaux
(Interspersed with bird-related readings by Birgit Minichmayr)

May 5
Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg Symphony / Sylvain Cambreling
BARTÓK: Piano Concerto No. 2

May 12
Cologne, Germany
Cologne Music Triennale – ACHT BRÜCKEN
WDR Symphony Orchestra / Elena Schwarz
Clara IANNOTTA: the purple fuchsia bled upon the ground (world premiere of new WDR Symphony commission)

May 19
Milan, Italy
Piano City Festival
MESSIAEN: Catalogue d’oiseaux

May 16
Chipping Campden, UK
Chipping Campden Festival
Recital and masterclass
BACH: Partita No. 1 in B-flat
SCHOENBERG: Suite for Piano
SCHUBERT: Ländler and Waltzes from D.145, D.779 & D.734
SCHUMANN: Carnaval

May 28
Bergen, Norway
BACH: Partita No. 1 in B-flat
SCHOENBERG: Suite for Piano
SCHUBERT: Ländler and Waltzes from D.145, D.779 & D.734
SCHUMANN: Carnaval

June 9–11
Dresden, Germany
Dresden Staatskapelle / Myung-Whun Chung
MESSIAEN: Turangalîla-Symphonie

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© 21C Media Group, January 2024


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