Pierre-Laurent Aimard returns to the concert stage this summer, launching the Ligeti Project at Germany’s Ruhr Piano Festival and England’s Aldeburgh Music. A major new online resource, the project is designed to disseminate his exclusive insights into the late Hungarian composer’s piano music, as gained over the course of their long and uniquely close working partnership. Highlights of Aimard’s sixth season as Artistic Director of Aldeburgh (June 13–29) also include his UK premiere performance of Tristan Murail’s Le Désenchantement du monde with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (June 28). Equally renowned in traditional piano repertoire, and having devoted much of his season-long sabbatical to intensive study of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, the Grammy Award-winning pianist also looks forward to showcasing Bach’s keyboard masterpiece on a European tour, which is timed to coincide with the August release of his new Deutsche Grammophon recording of the work, the latest addition to his already distinguished discography.
The Ligeti Project at the Ruhr Piano Festival, Aldeburgh Music, and online
At Essen’s Ruhr Piano Festival on June 6, Aimard took part in an in-depth examination of the great Hungarian composer’s Études, at which he gave an opening talk, conducted and filmed masterclasses; joined leading performers and academics for a scholarly panel discussion; took part in a rendition of Ligeti’s Horn Trio; and offered his own accounts of selected Études.
This illuminating, in-depth exploration launched the Ligeti Project, the fruit of many years’ labor, which draws on the intimate working relationship that Aimard enjoyed from the 1980s until the composer’s death in 2006 with György Ligeti, “the Central European composer whose music was among the most innovative of the last half of the 20th century” (Paul Griffiths, New York Times). Composed between 1985 and 2001, Ligeti’s 18 Études are some of the most important works of his career and probably the most significant set of piano studies of the 20th century, combining virtuosity with an extraordinary range of expressive content. According to the composer, these works grew “from simplicity to great complexity, behaving like growing organisms … displaying high virtuosity as a response to [my] own inadequate piano technique.”
It was Aimard who premiered and made first recordings of a number of Ligeti’s piano compositions, winning a 1997 Gramophone Award for his Sony Masterworks album of the Études. Indeed, it was he who inspired some of the great modernist’s most complex etudes, including Der Zauberlehrling (“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”), which is dedicated to him. As a result, Aimard remains without peer as an exponent of Ligeti’s music. After a live performance at Aldeburgh, the UK’s Telegraph reported: “Aimard captured not just the fiendish complexity of György Ligeti’s work, but also its expressive purpose.” As for the composer himself, he considered Aimard “today’s leading interpreter of contemporary piano music,” and explained:
“[Aimard] has secured this position through his masterful technique, the depth of his sensitivity, and the many nuances of his music, as well as through his absolute identification with the spirit of every single work he plays.”
Drawing on this singular wealth of experience and expertise, the Ligeti Project is designed to share Aimard’s uniquely privileged insights into the composer’s piano music and its inner workings with students and performers all over the world. A key component of this innovative pedagogical undertaking is the creation of a free, multilingual, interactive web site, developed in close collaboration with the pianist by Dr. Tobias Bleek, Head of Education at the Ruhr Piano Festival. In addition to interactive scores, archival source material, and other teaching resources, the site will feature a short film about each of Ligeti’s Études with performance notes from Aimard, and a series of filmed masterclasses with the pianist, for which filming began live at the Ruhr Piano Festival and will continue over several days at Aldeburgh (June 18-23).
Over the course of the 2014-15 season, Aimard will also give further Ligeti Project masterclasses and recitals in Kyoto, Shanghai, and Berkeley.
Performing and curating at the 67th Aldeburgh Festival
The pianist returns for his sixth season as Artistic Director of England’s Aldeburgh Music (June 13–29), where, under his curatorship, last year’s festival celebrating the centennial of its founder Benjamin Britten was pronounced “a feast for the ear and mind” (Telegraph, UK). In addition to working on Ligeti’s Études with emergent young pianists in a series of Festival Masterclasses, to be filmed for inclusion in the Ligeti Project (June 18–23), this season the pianist looks forward to giving multiple performances at the Suffolk festival, most notably presenting the UK premiere of Tristan Murail’s piano concerto, Le Désenchantement du monde, in collaboration with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Sakari Oramo (June 28). It was Aimard who gave the work’s first American performance with the New York Philharmonic under David Robertson, prompting Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times to report:
“The piece comes across as an elemental, shimmering mass of layered sounds, nuanced colors, and stacked-up harmonies. … The mix of the restlessness and stasis is ingenious. The brilliantly colorful performance was riveting.”
For his second orchestral appearance of the Aldeburgh season, Aimard joins longtime artistic collaborator Tamara Stefanovich to play Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in E-flat, with Thomas Zehetmair leading Aimard’s frequent collaborators in the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, the resident orchestra for the festival (June 29). His former protégé and longtime artistic partner, Stefanovich previously appeared with Aimard on their Grammy-nominated recording of Bartók’s Concerto for Two Pianos, Percussion and Orchestra, made with Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra.
Crowning an all-French recital program on June 14, Aimard performs Visions de l’Amen by Olivier Messiaen, another 20th-century composer with whom he enjoyed especially close ties; as a Messiaen Competition winner and former student of Yvonne Loriod, the French composer’s wife, Aimard has championed his compatriot’s music throughout his career, proving himself “one of the composer’s supreme interpreters” (New Yorker).
On June 22, Aimard leads Aldeburgh's Musicircus — an homage to John Cage's free-spirited "happenings" of the 1960s — during which visiting festival musicians will join local musicians with an array of stylistic backgrounds and skill levels to gather in public and private spaces across Aldeburgh and perform simultaneously, inviting the audience to wend its way through and engage with the event in a multifaceted, personal way.
Aimard also takes part in chamber recitals of music by Janácek, with members of the resident Chamber Orchestra of Europe (June 21), and duo sonatas by Webern (June 28). Other highlights of his programming for Aldeburgh’s 67th season include a rare new production of Owen Wingrave – a pacifist opera by festival founder Benjamin Britten – and guest appearances by John Eliot Gardiner and the Monteverdi Choir, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Thomas Adès, Ian Bostridge, Richard Goode, and the Arcanto Quartet.
Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I: on DG CD, in Salzburg, and more
Aimard’s recording of Bach’s Art of Fugue – his first for Deutsche Grammophon – was a phenomenal critical and commercial success that topped both the Billboard and iTunes classical charts. Now, following intensive study this past spring at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Berlin Institute for Advanced Studies), the pianist has documented his interpretation of another pinnacle of the keyboard literature, recording Book I of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier for international release on August 4. To celebrate the new Deutsche Grammophon disc, Aimard looks forward to taking the Baroque masterpiece on a tour that kicks off with summer dates at Austria’s Salzburg Festival (July 21) and Styriarte (July 14), where he also performs selections from Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux (July 15); Spain’s Santander International Festival, where the program will also include Beethoven’s Sonata No. 31, Op. 110 and Brahms’s “Handel Variations” (Aug 21); and Germany’s Rheingau Musik Festival (July 17).
Further details of Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s upcoming engagements are provided below, and more information is available at the artist’s web site: www.pierrelaurentaimard.com.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard: summer engagements
“A Year of Ligeti”
Ligeti: Études for Piano (selections)
Ligeti: Trio for horn, violin, and piano (with Marie Luise Neunecker, horn; Saschko Gawriloff, violin)
Messiaen: Visions de l’Amen
Festival Masterclasses: The Ligeti Project
Janácek: March of the Bluebirds
With members of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Webern: Four Pieces for violin and piano, Op. 7 (with Antje Weithaas, violin)
Webern: Three Little Pieces for cello and piano, Op. 11 (with Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello)
Murail: Le Désenchantement du monde (UK premiere)
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Sakari Oramo
Mozart: Concerto for Two Pianos No. 10 in E-flat, K365 (316a) (with Tamara Stefanovich, piano)
Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Thomas Zehetmair