credit Mat Hennek
She could be called a Renaissance woman for our times. Hélène Grimaud is not just a deeply passionate and committed musical artist whose pianistic accomplishments play a central role in her life. She is a woman with multiple talents that extend far beyond the instrument she plays with such poetic expression and peerless technical control. The French artist has established herself as a committed wildlife conservationist, a compassionate human rights activist and as a writer.
Grimaud was born in 1969 in Aix-en-Provence and began her piano studies at the local conservatory with Jacqueline Courtin before going on to work with Pierre Barbizet in Marseille. She was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire at just 13 and won first prize in piano performance a mere three years later. She continued to study with György Sándor and Leon Fleisher until, in 1987, she gave her well-received debut recital in Tokyo. That same year, renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris.
This marked the launch of Grimaud’s musical career, characterised ever since by concerts with most of the world’s major orchestras and many celebrated conductors. Her recordings have been critically acclaimed and awarded numerous accolades, among them the Cannes Classical Recording of the Year, Choc du Monde de la musique, Diapason d’or, Grand Prix du disque, Record Academy Prize (Tokyo), Midem Classic Award and the Echo Award.
Between her debut in 1995 with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado and her first performance with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur in 1999 – just two of many notable musical milestones – Grimaud made a wholly different kind of debut: in upper New York State she established the Wolf Conservation Center.
Her love for the endangered species was sparked by a chance encounter with a wolf in northern Florida; this led to her determination to open an environmental education centre. “To be involved in direct conservation and being able to put animals back where they belong,” she says, “there’s just nothing more fulfilling.” But Grimaud’s engagement doesn’t end there: she is also a member of the organisation Musicians for Human Rights, a worldwide network of musicians and people working in the field of music to promote a culture of human rights and social change.
For most people, establishing and running an environmental organisation or having a flourishing career as a musician would be accomplishment enough. Yet, remarkably, Hélène Grimaud has also found time to pursue writing, publishing three books that have appeared in various languages. Her first, Variations Sauvages, appeared in 2003. It was followed in 2005 by Leçons particulières, and in 2013 by Retour à Salem, both semi-autobiographical novels.
Despite her divided dedication to these multiple passions, it is through Grimaud’s thoughtful and tenderly expressive music-making that she most deeply touches the emotions of audiences. Fortunately, they have been able to enjoy her concerts worldwide, thanks to the extensive tours she undertakes as a soloist and recitalist. She is also an ardent and committed chamber musician who performs frequently at the most prestigious festivals and cultural events with a wide range of musical collaborators, including Sol Gabetta, Thomas Quasthoff, Rolando Villazón, Jan Vogler, Truls Mørk, Clemens Hagen and the Capuçon brothers. Her prodigious contribution to and impact on the world of classical music were recently recognised by the French government when she was admitted into the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France’s highest decoration) at the rank of Chevalier (Knight). She was presented with the award at a ceremony in Aix-en-Provence on 22 March this year.
Performance highlights of recent years include two collaborations with the Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon – tears become… streams become…, a large-scale immersive installation at New York’s Park Avenue Armory, and Neck of the Woods, a piece devised for the Manchester International Festival – and her appearance at the opening-night gala of the Philharmonie de Paris. Last season Grimaud appeared with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra at St Petersburg’s White Nights Festival and at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden’s Summer Festival, as well as playing Beethoven with the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia under Antonio Pappano and Brahms with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Yannick Nézet-Séguin. She also toured Asia and Europe, and has just completed an international tour with the Australian Youth Orchestra and Manfred Honeck.
In her diary for the 2016/17 season are European appearances with Nézet-Séguin and the Rotterdam Philharmonic; performances of concertos by Bartók, Brahms and Ravel in the US and Australia and recital dates in Germany and Switzerland with cellist Sol Gabetta. In December, she will also perform music from her latest album, Water, in Scottsdale, La Jolla and Baltimore, with further recitals to follow in spring 2017 in Stuttgart, Basel, Nuremberg, Lisbon, Rome, Monte Carlo and Stockholm.
Water, a live recording of the performances from tears become… streams become… was released earlier this year. It brings together works by nine composers: Berio, Takemitsu, Fauré, Ravel, Albéniz, Liszt, Janáček, Debussy, and Nitin Sawhney, who wrote seven short Water Transitions for the album as well as producing it. Water was greeted with critical acclaim, Classicalite calling it “a fascinating intellectual journey” and “an astonishing work of piano majesty that is both thought-provoking and spiritually unsettling”, while Gramophone praised Grimaud’s ability to interpret “a multitude of styles with passionate authority”.
Hélène Grimaud has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2002, and Water was the follow-up to the September 2013 release of her album of the two Brahms piano concertos, the first concerto with Andris Nelsons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the second recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic. Classic FM said: “Hélène Grimaud turns her thrilling, deeply personal brand of music-making to Brahms’s first and second Piano Concertos. Throughout her playing is sensitive, graceful, and commanding without ever feeling forced.” Limelight magazine called it an “utterly remarkable, inspired and inspiring recording”.
Duo, the album she recorded with cellist Sol Gabetta just prior to the Brahms concertos, won the 2013 ECHO Award for “chamber recording of the year”. Previous releases include her readings of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 19 and 23 on a 2011 disc which also featured a collaboration with singer Mojca Erdmann in the same composer’s Ch’io mi scordi di te?. Grimaud’s 2010 release, the solo recital album Resonances, showcased music by Mozart, Berg, Liszt and Bartók, while her other DG recordings include a selection of Bach’s solo and concerto works, in which she directed the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from the piano; a Beethoven disc with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Vladimir Jurowski which was chosen as one of history’s greatest classical music albums in the iTunes “Classical Essentials” series; Reflection and Credo (both of which feature a number of thematically linked works); a Chopin and Rachmaninov Sonatas disc; a Bartók CD on which she plays the Third Piano Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez; and a DVD release of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Abbado.
Hélène Grimaud is undoubtedly a multi-faceted artist. Her deep dedication to her musical career, both in performances and recordings, is reflected and reciprocally amplified by the scope and depth of her environmental and literary pursuits.
credit Marco Berggreve
Born in Moscow, Valery Gergiev initially studied conducting under Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatory. While still a student, he won the Herbert von Karajan conducting competition in Berlin. In 1978, aged 24, Valery Gergiev became assistant conductor of Yuri Temirkanov at the Mariinsky Opera, where he made his debut conducting Sergei Prokofiev’s adaptation of Tolstoy’s »War and Peace«. More than two decades ago, he assumed his current position as director of the legendary Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, which has since become a cornerstone of operatic culture in Russia.
Valery Gergiev’s close cooperation with the Munich Philharmonic began in the 2011-12 season. Since then, he has performed all symphonies by Dmitri Shostakovich and a cycle of works by Igor Stravinsky with both the Philharmonic and the Mariinsky Orchestra. Since the 2015-16 season, Valery Gergiev is chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. As »Maestro der Stadt« (The City’s Maestro) he reaches out to Munich concert audiences with subscription concerts and performances for young people, public final rehearsals, an open-air concert series on Odeonsplatz, and the »MPHIL 360°«-festival, while reaching an international audience with regular live streams and television broadcasts from the Philharmonie im Gasteig.
In September 2016, the first CD recordings under the orchestra’s own label »MPHIL« and which document the conductor’s work with the Munich Philharmonic were released. Further recordings focussing on Anton Bruckner’s symphonies, are in preparation. Travels with Valery Gergiev have taken the Munich Philharmonic to numerous European cities as well as Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan.
The Munich Philharmonic was founded in 1893 through the private initiative of Franz Kaim, the son of a piano manufacturer. Since then, the orchestra has left an indelible imprint on Munich’s cultural life under the leadership of renowned conductors.
In the orchestra’s earliest years – initially under the name "Kaim Orchestra" – conductors like Hans Winderstein, Hermann Zumpe and the Bruckner pupil Ferdinand Löwe guaranteed both a high technical standard of performance and enthusiastic support of contemporary artistry. Right from the outset, their artistic concept included the effort to structure programs and prices to allow access to the concerts by all levels of society. Felix Weingartner, who directed the orchestra from 1898 to 1905, enhanced its international reputation with several tours to other countries.
Gustav Mahler directed the orchestra in 1901 and 1910 at the respective world premières of his Fourth and Eighth Symphonies. In November of 1911, the orchestra, then called the “Konzertverein Orchestra” performed the world première of Mahler’s "Das Lied von der Erde" (The Song of the Earth) under Bruno Walter’s direction – only six months after the composer’s death in Vienna.
From 1908 to 1914, Ferdinand Löwe again took over the orchestra. In the wake of a triumphant guest appearance in Vienna on March 1, 1898 featuring Anton Bruckner’s Fifth Symphony, he conducted the first large-scale Bruckner concerts and thereby founded the orchestra’s Bruckner tradition, which has continued unbroken to the present day. During the administration of Siegmund von Hausegger, who guided the orchestra as its General Music Director from 1920 to 1938, the world premières of two Bruckner symphonies in their original versions took place as well as the final, definitive change of the orchestra’s name to “Munich Philharmonic”.
From 1938 to the summer of 1944, Austrian conductor Oswald Kabasta led the orchestra, advancing the Munich Philharmonic’s Bruckner tradition and also demonstrating the already established high standards of the orchestra on a number of tours at home and abroad.
The first concert after the Second World War was opened by Eugen Jochum with the overture to Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, whose music had been ostracized during the Nazi era. With Hans Rosbaud, the Philharmonic gained an outstanding leader in the autumn of 1945, a man who passionately advocated modern music. Rosbaud’s successor - from 1949 to 1966 - was Fritz Rieger. During the era of Rudolf Kempe, who headed the orchestra from 1967 until his untimely death in 1976, the Philharmonic undertook its first tours to Japan and the former Soviet Union.
In February of 1979, Sergiu Celibidache conducted his first concert series with the Munich Philharmonic and in June of the same year he was appointed General Music Director. Concert tours took him and the orchestra through many European countries as well as to South America and Asia. The legendary Bruckner concerts made a major contribution to the orchestra’s international standing, and during the Celibidache era the orchestra was repeatedly invited to accompany the Federal Government or the Federal President as musical ambassadors.
Following the wartime destruction of its old home, the so-called "Tonhalle" on the Türkenstrasse, the orchestras spent over forty years in Munich’s Herkulessaal. In 1985, the Philharmonic once again acquired its own concert hall with the Philharmonie in the Gasteig, Munich’s municipal cultural center.
From September 1999 until July 2004, James Levine was Chief Conductor of the Munich Philharmonic. With him, the Munich Philharmonic undertook extended concert tours: after a grand European tour in the winter of 2000, it made a guest appearance with James Levine in February 2002 at New York’s Carnegie Hall. In the summer of 2002, they made their joint début at the BBC Proms in London. In the spring of 2003, the Munich Philharmonic was awarded the prize for the "Best Concert Programming of the 2002/2003 Season" by the Society of German Music Publishers.
In January of 2004, the Munich Philharmonic named Zubin Mehta the first "Honorary Conductor" in the history of the orchestra. A highly successful tour under the baton of Zubin Mehta took the orchestra to South America in September 2010. For the 100ths anniversary of the première of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 in Munich, Christian Thielemann conducted two performances of this work in October 2010. He was succeeded as chief conductor by Lorin Maazel, who held the position until his death in 2014. During his time with the Munich Philharmonic, Maazel focussed on broadening the orchestra’s repertoire and on achieving more flexibility of sound.
As of the 2015-16 season, the position of chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic is held by Valery Gergiev. Tours have taken the Munich Philharmonic to numerous European cities as well as Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and the USA. Programme highlights conceived by Valery Gergiev include performances of symphonic cycles by Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov as well as new formats, such as the “MPHIL 360°” festival. Concerts are regularly broadcast via live stream and on radio and TV. In September 2016, the first CD recordings documenting the Munich Philharmonic’s work were released under the orchestra’s own label, "MPHIL". Currently, the Munich Philharmonic and Valery Gergiev are working on a complete recording of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies in the church of St. Florian abbey.
With "Spielfeld Klassik", the Munich Philharmonic has developed a comprehensive music education programme for young and old. Up to 35,000 people of all ages attended the more than 150 events held each year. Concerts for children, pupils and young people, opportunities for watching rehearsals of the Philharmonic, demonstrations of musical instruments and concert subscriptions for school pupils and students provide especially children and young people with varied opportunities for listening to and learning about classical music and the day-to-day work of a large symphony orchestra. Under the motto of "MPhil vor Ort" (MPhil on Site), the Munich Philharmonic also leaves its home base – the Philharmonie Gasteig – to appear in unusual and varied locations, such as the Hofbräuhaus tavern as well as alpine meadows, clubs and industrial halls.