Pierre-Laurent Aimard Juxtaposes Contemporary Repertoire with Beethoven This Season, in Recital and on Tour in Europe with Gürzenich-Orchester and François-Xavier Roth
Peerless French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard is celebrated worldwide for both his unparalleled expertise in contemporary music and his unique take on the classics. During the 2019-20 season these specialties are brought into dialogue with one another in celebration of the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, as the pianist contrasts the Classical master’s pioneering spirit with iconic groundbreakers from the 20th and 21st centuries. On a tour of Germany, France and England with François-Xavier Roth and Cologne’s Gürzenich-Orchester, Aimard juxtaposes Beethoven with John Cage and a newly commissioned work by Francesco Filidei. A similar theme galvanizes the pianist’s solo recitals in Paris, Boston and New York: Beethoven sonatas rub shoulders with works by George Benjamin, Alban Berg, and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, while in the latter two cities Aimard gives a second recital combining Beethoven with Schoenberg and Stockhausen. Beethoven also takes center stage as Aimard embarks on his third and final year of a residency at London’s Southbank Centre: he curates and performs in a series of three concerts next spring titled “Beethoven and the Avant Garde.” Rounding out Aimard’s season are multiple performances of Bartók’s three piano concertos; a four-project residency at the Casa da Música in Porto, Portugal; a tour to Russiacomprising performances with two different orchestras and a solo recital in Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall; performances in Brussels and Amsterdam of Scriabin’s Prometheus: The Poem of Fire with Andris Nelsons leading the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; and much more.
Long recognized for his unique voice as a Beethoven interpreter, Aimard made a historically-informed recording of the complete Beethoven concertos with the late Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in 2003. Gramophone, declaring that “the freshness of this set is remarkable,” called Aimard “an inspired choice” as soloist. On tour in Germany, France and England with François-Xavier Roth and Cologne’s Gürzenich-Orchesterthis season, Aimard plays a program inspired by Beethoven’s wide-ranging “Academy” concerts, which showcased his latest works in multiple genres. The pianist performs Beethoven’s“Emperor” Concerto and “Moonlight” Sonatawith a newly commissioned work by Francesco Filidei, and John Cage’s Concert for Piano and Orchestra (Feb 9-24).
Aimard also echoes the theme of the avant-garde Beethoven in recital this season. At the Cité de la Musique in Paris he plays Beethoven’s“Hammerklavier” Sonata, along with George Benjamin’s Shadowlines, Berg’s Op. 1 Piano Sonata, and a work by the early Baroque Dutch composer Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (Jan 25). He performs similar programs in Boston’sCelebrity Series and at New York’s 92nd Street Y, along with a second concert in both cities combining Beethoven sonatas with works of Schoenberg and Stockhausen (March 28-April 4). Slightly varying the program, the pianist gives performances in Colorado and Schenectady, New York in November featuring two movements from Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux alongside works by Beethoven, Sweelinck and Benjamin (Nov 19, 20, 24). Both Messiaen and Stockhausen are among the modernist masters with whom Aimard worked closely during their lifetimes. He recorded the complete Catalogue d’oiseaux in 2018 to inaugurate his exclusive contract with the Pentatone label, and a recent account of Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke at Musikfest Berlin was hailed as “the performance of a lifetime.”
The 90th anniversary of Stockhausen’s birth was celebrated last season, when Aimard performed two concerts dedicated to the composer’s music as part of his three-year residency at London’sSouthbank Centre. This season marks the third and final year of the residency, during which the pianist curates and performs in three concerts dedicated to Beethoven. On February 21, the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall is the venue for one stop on Aimard’s tour with Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester. On March 10 the pianist plays a solo recital juxtaposing Beethoven’s“Hammerklavier” Sonata with the “Concord” Sonata of Charles Ives, a program he reprises the following week in Antwerp, and on May 16 he returns to the Southbank Centre to perform Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with Nicholas Collon leading the Aurora Orchestra. When Gramophone reviewed Aimard’s 2003 recording of the complete concertos, his performance of the Fourth was singled out as a “quite exceptional achievement.”
Aimard’s busy season includes a number of other orchestral collaborations and solo performances as well. In addition to their performances with the Gürzenich-Orchester, he and François-Xavier Roth team up for Bartók’s First Piano Concerto with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (Oct 30-31) and the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra (Nov 14-15), after recent performances of the Third Concerto with the Berlin Philharmonic. The pianist also explores the second of Bartók’s piano concertos with three orchestras: the Ural Philharmonic conducted by Dmitry Liss in Yekaterinburg, Russia (Dec 6); the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Russia under Konstantin Khvatynets in Moscow (Dec 13); and the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia under Josep Pons in A Coruña, Spain (Jan 31-Feb 1). Reuniting with Roth, Aimard performs Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto with the Orchestre de Parisat the end of the season (May 20-21), following a tour of the same piece in Belgium with the Antwerp Symphony led by Philippe Herreweghe (May 7-9), and gives a rendering of Beethoven’s Third Concerto with Andrew Manze leading the NDR Radiophilharmonie (Nov 6). Finally, following a residency with Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra last season, Aimard joins conductor Andris Nelsons and the orchestrafor performances in Brussels and Amsterdam of Scriabin’s seldom-heard Prometheus: The Poem of Fire (Jan 16-19).