Programming Games, May 10, 2007
Collages-Montages, May 11, 2007
57th Street and 7th Avenue
French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s concerts are always events, whether he is performing standard repertory like Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, or challenging and adventurous 20th century music, like Gyorgy Ligeti’s amazing set of solo Etudes.
Aimard is an eclectic artist: his season-long Perspectives concerts at Carnegie Hall have shown the pianist’s voracious musical appetite, and he is unafraid to bring audiences along to sample his multi-course smorgasbord. Aimard’s first remaining Carnegie Hall Perspectives showcases Aimard, fellow pianist Tamara Stefanovich and percussionists Daniel Ciampolini and Joseph Gramley performing works by Hungarian composers on May 10 at the intimate Zankel Hall. The second, also at the Zankel, is a solo Aimard recital juxtaposing extracts from various composers’ keyboard works, spanning the 18th to 21st centuries.
While in Minnesota to play concerts with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Aimard discussed his Perspectives events.
Kevin Filipski: You’re nearing the end of your Perspectives series at Carnegie Hall this season. How have the performances been received?
Pierre-Laurent Aimard: There is a magnificent audience at Carnegie Hall which is responding very much to what I propose musically. I also have great partnerships with the people there, and I have been creating programs that, I hope, make sense. It’s a great, great feeling, and I’m looking forward to these last two.
KF: Let’s talk about these two concerts. The first, on May 10, is called “Programming Games.” How did that program come about?
PLA: The first program is an evening without intermission in four movements. For each movement we play Hungarian music: first there’s an introduction (Peter Eotvos’ “Kosmos”), a slow movement (Gyorgy Kurtag’s “Játékok”), a scherzo (Ligeti’s Etudes), then a finale (Bela Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion).
“Kosmos” will be played in different places of the hall: we [Aimard and Stefanovich] cannot be synched while we play, but we don’t want to be, anyway. Kurtag’s pieces are played as if they are a dream: my partner [Stefanovich] will play an upright piano, from where in the hall we won’t know, as a sort of response to what I play.
Next is a set of pieces played around Ligeti’s etudes as an homage [Ligeti died last July at age 83]: it’s either music he admired or that inspired him (by Colon Nancarrow and Steve Reich). We are playing an arrangement of Ligeti’s music for metronomes as a joke, and during his etudes, a percussionist will add some rhythmic improvisations. This way we play around and create a small constellation of brilliant, funny or relaxed moments. Finally, after all of these other Hungarian sounds, we play Bartok’s Sonata, which is the cathedral of all rhythmic music.
We are trying to play in a certain way with our main theme of rhythm, which has been the theme of all these Perspectives concerts.
KF: The May 11 concert is called “Collages–Montages.” How did you come up with the idea of juxtaposing short works by dozens of composers over three centuries?
PLA: I had three solo piano evenings planned for these Perspectives. I wanted to think about what Perspectives mean by playing small pieces from the past and today. First I performed 24 etudes in December by different composers, then in March I performed a chronological promenade of many composers. This time, it will be a game of montage and collage, with many extracts of many pieces, making it a game of the interruptions and the surprises we can hear. There are many ways to play with different pieces of music from very different origins, and this evening is a game without intermission.
KF: You have a special affinity for the music of Ligeti, which you have recorded and performed extensively. What is it about his music that appeals to you?
PLA: Ligeti’s piano music is certainly among the best of all the existing piano repertoire from all periods in the history of music. What’s interesting is that he used the piano in the normal way—just to touch and press the keys, with no special effects or prepared pianos—but he re-invented the piano completely. His extramusical influences are used in a very organic way, so his music always has a strong identity. After the 1970's, which was a dead period for piano composition, Ligeti began a new golden age for piano composition in the 1980's. This year, I’ve had a strong focus on his music as a kind of homage to him.
KF: Do you see your job as bringing unfamiliar music to audiences?
PLA: One part of what I do is to invite the audience to share my enthusiasms and adventures through the past and today. So my goal is to decide how I will act: therefore, I try to have programs that I hope will show people new repertoire. In these Perspectives concerts, I can go quite far because the New York audience has always reacted favorably to what I proposed in various seasons, so I can risk even more.
KF: You have always done the unexpected. What’s next for you?
PLA: I can’t say right now. For example, the last recording I made was of Schumann solo works—I’ve made a lot of recordings, and there will be a small gap for me before the next one. But then that will probably be something unexpected.
originally posted on timessquare.com