Pierre-Laurent Aimard © Julia Wesely
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, one of today’s most striking artists, performs essential cycles of the pianistic repertoire. The concerts will juxtapose Bach’s «Goldberg-Variations» with key works of the 20th century. Above all, the programmes will feature composers with whom Pierre-Laurent Aimard is tied very closely.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard is a musician of extremes, who never leaves anything to chance. Just how uncomprising he can be, is evident in an episode from the documentary «Pianomania», filmed while Aimard was recording Bach’s «Art of Fugue» in the Wiener Konzerthaus. Aimard makes the highest demands of the legendary piano tuner Stefan Knüpfer. When the Steinway expert asks whether the piano’s sound should blossom like a flower or remain contained in itself, Aimard’s short but rapid response is: «Both!»
As an artist, Aimard always aims for the maximum, even if it might appear unattainable at first. Thanks to his stupendouns technical facility, he can transform even the most obtuse compositional concepts into breathtaking musical events. With the clarity of his ideas of interpretation and the precision with which he implements them, his performances are always a musical highlight.
Aimard’s immense pianistic abilities inspired György Ligeti to write some of his most complex compositions: Most of his late piano studies were first performed by Aimard in close collaboration with Ligeti. «If you have the privilege of regularly working together with a great creator, and of being given many new pieces by him, then it is an obligation to pass that on to the next generation», Aimard said once in an interview. For this reason, following a performance of the complete «Études», the Frenchman will take about his personal approach to these fascinating pieces, complete with musical examples.
Aimard is also closely tied to the works of Olivier Messiaen. At the age of 12, he entered the piano class of Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen’s second wife. And fascinated by contemporary music, the young pianist also attended Messiaen’s composition classes. In the Wiener Konzerthaus, he will perform the composer’s «Catalogue d’oiseaux». Each piece in the collection refers to an individual province in France and is characterized by the song of a specific bird. The work is dedicated to Yvonne Loriod, who gave its first performance. Messiaen was the ornothologist among composers, tirelessly notating birdsong on his hiking tours through the countryside, but also landscapes, lighting conditions and nuances of colour, Aimard says. By incorporating birdsong into these piano pieces, Messiaen created an open sonic space where the unexpected can happen. A step towards the use of aleatory principles in contemporary music.
Perhaps best known as a specialist for the avant-garde, Aimard is, and always has been keen to establish a balance between new compositions and the great works of the piano repertoire. It should therefore come as no surprise that he has chosen Johann Sebastian Bach’s «Goldberg Variations» for the final concert in his portrait series at the Wiener Konzerthaus. The Frenchman has always played Bach, but only performed his works in public if he really felt sure of himself. For Aimard, it is a process of critical self-questioning: «Bach unites to much in his works. How can I do them justice today?» The «Goldberg Variations» were, to some extent, the sum of a great many compositional dimensions, he says.