Press Room

Pierre Laurent-Aimard: “The Liszt Project,” “Pianomania,” & more

Pierre-Laurent Aimard launched what promises to be another extraordinary season with appearances at Germany’s Weimar and Berlin Festivals, and the resounding success of the “Exquisite Labyrinth” festival at London’s Southbank Centre, where he served as both Artistic Advisor and performer. Described by the Guardian as “a generous, weekend-long tribute to Pierre Boulez,” this major retrospective “made for a fitting celebration of the Frenchman’s music” ( As for the pianist’s own Boulez performances, the Independent judged them to be “as definitive as it gets.” Next on Aimard’s itinerary is this week’s release of The Liszt Project on Deutsche Grammophon. Marking this year’s bicentennial of the great composer-pianist’s birth, Aimard’s double album features more than two hours of music, not only by Liszt but by composers from Wagner to the present day. The pianist is also one of the stars of Pianomania, a new film that has captured the imaginations of audiences and festival juries in Europe and the U.S., and comes to screens in New York and Los Angeles in November. Aimard’s typically busy global concert schedule features Liszt Project recitals in the U.K. and Germany this winter, as well as concerts in Japan and China. He joins frequent collaborator Pierre Boulez to perform Bartók with the Cleveland Orchestra and Schoenberg with the Chicago Symphony in February 2012. March brings a four-date U.S. recital tour with a program of Debussy, Schumann, and Kurtág, followed by two Lincoln Center recitals in April, when Aimard will showcase The Liszt Project repertoire. In summer 2012, he returns to the U.K.’s Aldeburgh Festival for his fourth season as Artistic Director.

The Liszt Project on DG – Aimard’s fourth release for the august Yellow Label – combines the penetrating lucidity of his art as a recording artist with his vision as a programmer. Aimard honors Liszt’s bicentennial in a characteristically personal way, the release very much offering a full album experience: one that, as the pianist explains, aims to “illuminate dimensions” of the forward-minded Liszt that aren’t often fully considered, from the dark and concentrated to the colorful and open.

The focal point of the first half of The Liszt Project is Liszt’s monumental Piano Sonata in B minor. For comparison, Aimard includes other single-movement sonatas by Berg, Wagner (the rarely heard Piano Sonata in A-flat “from the album of Frau Mathilde Wesendonck”), and Scriabin (his ever-startling “Black Mass” Sonata). The other Liszt works included are a selection of late piano pieces, many as harmonically daring as any of his time or of the decades to come.

The second program pairs works by Liszt with those of other composers, the sequence tracing an arc from dark to light. The disc opens with Liszt’s atmospheric “Cypresses” Threnody from Années de pèlerinage III, juxtaposed with a selection from Bartók’s Four Dirges, in which “Liszt’s harmonic influence can be felt everywhere,” as the pianist explains. The set also pairs Liszt’s music with that of Ravel and Marco Stroppa (one of Aimard’s associates from IRCAM), before twinning works by Messiaen and Liszt that, in Aimard’s words, “examine nature and time from different angles.” Again, Messiaen’s descriptive writing builds on Liszt’s pioneering evocations of extra-musical ideas. The New York Times’s response to an Aimard recital that juxtaposed Bach with Elliott Carter is equally applicable to The Liszt Project: “Aimard likes breaking down compartments and making the works interact.” A 23-minute YouTube video from DG that shows Aimard at the piano, discussing the The Liszt Project in more detail, is available here.

Pianomania presents master piano tuner Stefan Knüpfer in his work with Aimard, as well as with other Steinway pianists such as Alfred Brendel. Opening on November 4, the film shows for one week at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center in New York’s Lincoln Center; from November 11, Pianomania shows for two weeks at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre in Los Angeles. More information is available at, and the trailer is available here.

After multiple European concerts in the autumn and winter with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, plus numerous solo recitals worldwide, Aimard returns to the United States. One of his closest performing relationships in America has been with the Cleveland Orchestra. He served as the orchestra’s artist-in-residence for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, and recently recorded Ravel’s piano concertos with the ensemble under Boulez’s direction. Aimard returns to Cleveland in February 2012 to perform Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Boulez. After Aimard’s account of Bartók’s ever-challenging Piano Concerto No. 2 at Lincoln Center two years ago, Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times remarked: “Without any facade of virtuosic showiness, the intensely focused and technically prodigious Mr. Aimard played it with ease.” After his run in Cleveland, the pianist will join the Chicago Symphony for Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto and Pierrot lunaire. Next March, Aimard’s four-date U.S. tour of solo Debussy, Schumann, and Kurtág includes his recital debuts in Denver and Santa Barbara, along with dates in Detroit and San Francisco.

The Wall Street Journal has described Aimard as “a brilliant musician and an extraordinary visionary” not only for his playing but for the insight, scope, and appeal of his programming and recorded projects. Winner of Grammy and Gramophone awards, the French pianist signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 2007, and his first DG release – Bach’s Art of Fugue – scored critical acclaim and a double debut at number one atop both the iTunes and Billboard classical charts. As a concert artist, Aimard has curated his own “Perspectives” series at Carnegie Hall, was pianist-in-residence with the Berlin Philharmonic and “artiste étoile” at the Lucerne Festival. He was given “carte blanche” at Vienna’s Konzerthaus, invited to curate a “Domaine privé” by Paris’s Cité de la Musique, and took part in an Auftakt residency at the Alte Oper Frankfurt, in addition to his role as Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival since 2009. Aimard returns as Artistic Director of Aldeburgh on June 8-24, 2012. Covering the festival last summer, the Financial Times had glowing praise for his directorship:

“Quaintness is part of Aldeburgh’s charm, but it gives a misleading impression of the festival, which is as sophisticated and up-to-the-minute as the town is endearingly behind the times. That distinction has become black-and-white since Pierre-Laurent Aimard arrived as Artistic Director two years ago. …Aimard, a French pianist with a gift for creative programming, has virtually turned the festival on its head. Suddenly Aldeburgh feels less parochial, less precious – and very international.”



Pierre Laurent-Aimard, 2011-12 engagements


October 16

Chamber Orchestra of Europe (playing/directing)

Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5

Dijon, France


October 20

Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg / Volkov

Brahms: Piano Concerto No.1

Strasbourg, France


November 1



Klais, Bavaria, Germany


November 5

Cappella Amsterdam

Liszt: Via Crucis


Amsterdam, Netherlands


November 8

International Piano Series

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Recital: Liszt, Bartók, Stroppa, Ravel, and Messiaen

London, UK


November 18 & 20

Recitals: Toppan Hall


Liszt program

Tokyo, Japan


November 25

Shanghai Concert Hall

Recital: Liszt and Debussy

Shanghai, China


November 27

Recital: Liszt and Debussy

Beijing, China


December 1

Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum 

Recital: Kurtág: Játékok; Liszt: Sonata in B minor

Salzburg, Austria


December 4

Staatsoper unter den Linden 

Recital: Scarlatti, Beethoven, Schumann, Bartók, Schoenberg, Cage, and Boulez

Berlin, Germany


December 5


Recital: Liszt, Wagner, Berg, and Scriabin

Leipzig, Germany


December 7

International Piano Series

Queen Elizabeth Hall

Recital: Liszt, Wagner, Berg, and Scriabin

London, United Kingdom


December 14

Bayerischer Rundfunk

Recital: piano works by Boulez

With Tamara Stefanovich

Munich, Germany


December 17

Théatre de Champs-Elysées

Recital: Liszt, Wagner, and Scriabin

Paris, France


January 10, 2012

Turner Sims Concert Hall

Recital: Debussy: Préludes

Southampton, UK


January 26 & 27

Scottish Chamber Orchestra / Ticciati

Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2

Edinburgh, Glasgow, UK


January 28

Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Aberdeen, United Kingdom


February 2


Recital: Debussy, Schumann, and Kurtág

Antwerp, Belgium


February 4

Casa da Música

Recital: Debussy: Préludes

Porto, Portugal


February 16-18

The Cleveland Orchestra / Boulez

Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 1

Cleveland, OH


February 24-26 & 28

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Boulez

Schoenberg: Pierrot lunaire

Chicago, IL


March 1-3

Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Boulez

Schoenberg: Piano Concerto

Chicago, IL


March 19


One Finger too Many with Alfred Brendel

Toulouse, France


March 22-27

U.S. recitals: Debussy, Schumann, and Kurtág

   Denver, CO (March 22)

   Detroit, MI (March 24)

   Santa Barbara, CA (March 26)

   San Francisco, CA (March 27)


April 12

Concert: with Asko Schöenberg Ensemble / Etienne Siebens

Benjamin; Birtwistle

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam


April 13 

Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra /Brabbins

Ligeti Piano Concerto

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam


April 17, 2012  

Recital: Liszt programme



April 21-22

Lincoln Center

Recitals: both programs from The Liszt Project

New York, NY


June 8-24

Aldeburgh Festival (Artistic Director)

Suffolk, United Kingdom


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© 21C Media Group, October 2011

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