Pierre-Laurent Aimard looms large in U.S. this season

From Liszt to Ligeti and Carnegie Hall to Cleveland, Pierre-Laurent Aimard Looms Large in U.S. This Season

In a season that also takes him from London to Tokyo and Moscow to Milan, Pierre-Laurent Aimard looks forward to a full program of North American engagements. He launched the new season with the release of his landmark all-Ravel album with the Cleveland Orchestra, which, besides the two Piano Concertos, features Miroirs, “whose poetry and liveliness Aimard relays like an oracle” (Cleveland Plain-Dealer). This haunting solo piano suite also forms the centerpiece of Aimard’s high-profile December U.S. recital tour, in Los Angeles (Dec 1), Philadelphia (Dec 3), Chicago (Dec 5), and Carnegie Hall (Dec 8). The pianist soon returns again to the historic New York venue, rejoined by the Cleveland Orchestra under its music director, Franz Welser-Möst; after three performances of Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto in Cleveland (Jan 20-22), Aimard joins the orchestra on tour in Bloomington (Jan 25), Miami (Jan 28 & 29) Ann Arbor (Feb 1), Chicago (Feb 2), Carnegie Hall (Feb 5) and Newark (Feb 6). Back in New York the following month, Aimard makes four appearances as soloist in Ligeti’s Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic and Esa-Pekka Salonen (March 10-15), before embarking on his second North American recital tour of the season, with performances in Princeton (May 3) and Atlanta’s Spivey Hall (May 7).

As the UK’s Independent newspaper observes, “It is hard to imagine a pianist better qualified to play works by Ravel…than Pierre-Laurent Aimard.” The centerpiece of the pianist’s forthcoming U.S. recital tour, 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. For his December recital program, Aimard juxtaposes Miroirs with works by Chopin and with Messiaen’s Préludes, as featured on his 2008 album Hommage à Messiaen. As a Messiaen Competition winner and former piano student of Yvonne Loriod, the composer’s wife, Aimard has championed Messiaen’s music throughout his career, and was described by the New Yorker’s Russell Platt as “one of the composer’s supreme interpreters.” The December tour takes Aimard to Los Angeles’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (Dec 1), Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center (Dec 3), Chicago’s Symphony Center (Dec 5), and, in the “Keyboard Virtuosos I” series, New York City’s Carnegie Hall (Dec 8).

Aimard’s relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra goes back many years. He recently served as its Artist-in-Residence for the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons, besides recording Ravel’s piano concertos under Boulez’s direction for his most recent CD release. Now Aimard reunites with the orchestra, this time with its music director, Franz Welser-Möst, for three performances of Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (1930-31) at Cleveland’s Severance Hall (Jan 20-22). After Aimard’s account of that work at Lincoln Center last year, the New York Times’s Anthony Tommasini remarked: “The concerto would be a staple if it were not so fiendishly difficult. But without any facade of virtuosic showiness, the intensely focused and technically prodigious Mr. Aimard played it with ease.” Aimard then joins the orchestra on tour, playing Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in Bloomington (Jan 25) and Chicago (Feb 2). For the rest of his tour with the Cleveland Orchestra, Aimard performs Schumann’s Piano concerto in Miami (Jan 28 & 29), Ann Arbor (Feb 1), Newark (Feb 6), and at New York’s Carnegie Hall on February 5.

The pianist’s next New York appearance is on the other side of town at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, where he gives four performances of Ligeti’s Piano Concerto – “a signature work for Pierre-Laurent Aimard” (John von Rhein, American Record Guide) – as part of the New York Philharmonic’s “Hungarian Echoes” festival, with festival conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen (March 10, 11, 12, & 15). Aimard’s recording of the composer’s Études for Sony Masterworks won a 1997 Gramophone Award, and indeed, it was Ligeti who described Aimard as “today’s leading interpreter of contemporary piano music,” citing his “masterful technique, the depth of his sensitivity, and the many nuances of his music, as well as…his absolute identification with the spirit of every single work he plays.”

In a characteristically full season of recitals – in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, Moscow, and Tokyo, to name but a few – Aimard returns to North America for a second recital tour in the first week of May. First stop is at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre Center (May 3), where Aimard explores the work of Liszt, Bartók, Ravel, Messiaen and contemporary composer Marco Stroppa. At Aimard’s next performance, sonatas by Wagner, Berg, and Scriabin prepare the way for that of Liszt, with whose epic B-minor Sonata Aimard closes the program at Atlanta’s Spivey Hall (May 7).

Beyond America, the pianist’s orchestral engagements are also manifold; highlights include Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto with Milan’s Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala and Gustavo Dudamel; Ravel with Tokyo’s NHK Symphony Orchestra and Charles Dutoit and with Paris’s Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France with Myung-Whun Chung; and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 on a six-city European tour with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Robin Ticciati. Yet this intense schedule is just the sort on which Aimard thrives; he is, after all, “one of the most brilliant and distinctive pianists before the public today” (Boston Globe).

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