Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s First Season as Artistic Director of England’s Aldeburgh Festival Is a Critical Triumph in its Programming and Performance

Pianist-conductor Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s first of three seasons as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival was greeted with cheers and rave notices from the media.

The Economist published a full-page prelude to the Aimard era at Aldeburgh:

“Mr Aimard enjoys unrivalled connections with leading European composers and performers and has an attitude to music-making that is highly pragmatic while still uncompromising. Even his critics are heralding this year’s Aldeburgh festival...as one of the best programmes for years. New commissions include two staged works by Harrison Birtwistle. Elliott Carter, an American centenarian, will also be a prominent presence, with two days of concerts centered on the premiere of “On Conversing with Paradise ”, a setting of poems by Ezra Pound. Nor will Mr Aimard be confined to a backstage role. Among other performances, he will be playing the British premiere of George Benjamin’s “Duet for Piano and Orchestra”.

The Telegraph’s Ivan Hewett interviewed Aimard in the days leading up to the opening, and presented the popular pianist in succinct language:

“‘Alchemy’ is a favourite word of the renowned French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. He uses it to describe the mysterious transformations that occur when opposites meet. Right now he’s hoping to create a little alchemy of his own. In just over a week, he makes his debut as director of the Aldeburgh Festival.
“On the face of it, this is an unlikely match. Aldeburgh has never been parochial in its outlook, but nevertheless there is something deeply English about this festival. ... So inviting him to head the festival was a bold move, and no one was more surprised than Aimard himself. ‘I realised that, if I accepted, I would learn a lot, discover a lot. So I said, 'Yes, I’ll do it.’”

Hewett gave his final stamp of approval in a June 29 review of the festival’s last concert. The all-encompassing headline described the performance by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (conducted by Aimard) in a few words: “As always, conductor Aimard found a wonderful range of pianistic colours.” The Financial Times reported on the new pieces by Carter (now in his 101st year), and described the composer as still being “full of musical ideas...and some will survive him – not least two short piano pieces, Fratribute and Sistribute, which with the existing (and dazzling) Matribute now add up to a piquant cycle. ... Pierre-Laurent Aimard played them with characteristic panache.” A writer for France’s Figaro regretted not having visited earlier.

“Who but the English know about Aldeburgh? Some initiates know that Benjamin Britten founded it ... and ran it until his death. ... Few continentals could even guess that the Aldeburgh Festival, 33 years after Britten’s demise, is more active and inventive than ever. ... Pierre-Laurent Aimard presented the opening evening as a declaration of intent: this artist, who has never hesitated to upset the concert-going public, presented a concert titled ‘Collage - Montage’, which dislodged some preconceptions and led to many questions.”

Aimard returns to Aldeburgh as Artistic Director in 2010 and 2011. Other upcoming summer activities for Aimard include a concert on July 31st at the Salzburg Festival in Vienna and performances with Chamber Orchestra of Europe at the “Mostly Mozart” festival in New York on August 9 and 10, where he will act as both conductor and soloist.


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