Pierre-Laurent Aimard Photo: Felix Broede/DG
Hot on the heels of a great Piano Spheres program with the music of Morton Feldman on Monday, came another superb evening of piano music Tuesday night right across the street. The occasion was a solo recital from perhaps the most intelligent pianist currently performing before the public, Pierre-Laurent Aimard. He’s not flashy, sexy, or mysteriously aloof, but he is one seriously intense and intellectually sophisticated musician. His appearance at WDCH featured a snapshot examination of French piano music and technique. What was interesting about the program was how it worked backwards starting with a relatively more recent work and working back to the 19th century. Aimard revealed the core by cutting away from the present, illuminating unexpected ties and managing some miraculous playing all along the way.
The evening started with Olivier Messiaen’s Preludes
, a set of eight short pieces composed during the late 1920s. It’s one of Messiaen’s earliest works and it’s very rooted in the kind of impressionism associated with Debussy. However, the sonic hallmarks of Messiaen’s own music is already clearly audible throughout all of the Preludes,
and Aimard, who has previously recorded
the works, made them sound like grand premonitions of the future. He returned for the second half of the program with Ravel’s Miroirs
, five movements Aimard performers on his most recent DG release. This piece was completed about 25 years prior to Messiaen’s Preludes,
and Aimard expounded on the themes brought to light in the first half of the evening now in the Ravel. Again the use of color is central and Aimard’s crisp, yet lush take on these impressionistic tributes to Ravel’s fellow artists and colleagues was captivating. The program closed by going even further back to two works from Chopin, Barcarolle in F-sharp major, Op. 60
and the Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor, Op.31
. Aimard's focus on color, clarity, and process gave the work an unusual but interesting edge pulling them out of their traditional Romantic context and placing them in a clearer line with what had come before (in the evening) and later (in history). And just to put a point on it all, Aimard capped off the evening with a reminder of the late 20th century with a brief sobering reminder that harkened back to the sparse sound and deliberate methodology of the Feldman from the night before with György Kurtág’s Hommage à Berényi Ferenc 70
. Granted, this frustrated some who were looking for something big, tuneful, and familiar to send them on their way. But this is Aimard, and there is always much more going on than the conventional.
Labels: LA Philharmonic 10/11