Pierre-Laurent Aimard (photo: Marco Borggreve)
Long known as one of the world’s most passionate interpreters of the works of Messiaen, today Pierre-Laurent Aimard – who was mentored as a young man by the composer and his second wife, Yvonne Loriod – plays Messiaen’s two-hour cycle Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus at the Philharmonie de Paris (Feb 15). Soon thereafter, the pianist returns to the U.S. for an all-fantasia solo recital for Baltimore’s Candlelight Concert Society, with composers ranging from Mozart to George Benjamin (Feb 27). The concert will be livestreamed and available to view for two weeks after the event; tickets are available here. Aimard also performs with two U.S. orchestras this season, playing Bartók’s Second Piano Concerto with the Seattle Symphony led by Finnish conductor Dalia Stasevska, who makes her debut with the orchestra (March 3 & 5); and two performances each of the same composer’s First and Third Piano Concertos with the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen (June 16–19). Finally, the announcement was made in January that Aimard will be awarded Denmark’s prestigious Léonie Sonning Music Prize in the fall. The award will be given during a concert featuring the pianist with the Royal Danish Orchestra led by Sylvain Cambreling, and in the surrounding days he will play two solo recitals, give a masterclass and participate in an artist talk (Oct 4–9). In addition, Aimard performs Messiaen’s complete Catalogue d’oiseaux – which was captured on his 2018 debut recording for the Pentatone label and honored with the prestigious German Music Critics’ Award – in a series of three concerts over the course of a day in Humlebaek, Denmark at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (May 29).
When Aimard played Vingt regards in London in 2016, Seen and Heard International raved about his interpretation of what is “arguably the most significant piano cycle of the twentieth century,” calling it “a truly outstanding performance, one which audience members could properly consider themselves privileged to experience. Unforgettable.” Likewise, when his recording of the work was released on the Teldec label in 2000, the New York Times called it “a thoroughly spectacular recording of [Messiaen’s] greatest solo piano work.” The same review continued:
“It is furiously virtuosic, conceived for a musician whose hands could skid and slam and tremble to produce an enormous variety of colors. … Mr. Aimard has the full measure of its vigor and its brilliance – though it is not easy to know what is most impressive here: the vividness of so many different piano sounds or the exemplary directness with which they are executed.”
As this year’s honoree of the Léonie Sonning Music Prize, Denmark’s most important music award, Aimard joins a storied list of recipients that stretches back to 1959, the prize’s inaugural year, when it was awarded to Igor Stravinsky. In the award concert with the Royal Danish Orchestra led by Sylvain Cambreling, the pianist will perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor, George Benjamin’s Duet for piano and orchestra, and Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques. On receiving news of the honor, Aimard responded:
“It is a great honor and joy to be receiving the Léonie Sonning Music Prize. I am very touched that I have been considered alongside other remarkable and distinguished artists who have had the privilege of receiving this distinction.”