Who is Pierre-Laurent Aimard?

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 14:09

Pierre-Laurent Aimard is heading into the second year of his three-year tenure as Artist-in-Residence here at Southbank Centre, but what do you know about the acclaimed French pianist?

He never wanted to be a child prodigy

Born in Lyon in 1957, Aimard was already performing the music of Arnold Schoenberg on the piano by the age of seven. He was still in his teenage years when the composer Olivier Messiaen marked Aimard as one of his favourite pianists, and by 19 he was the soloist in Pierre Boulez’s elite contemporary music group, the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

He’s been the trusted interpreter of many a contemporary composer

It wasn’t just Messiaen and Boulez who coveted the piano playing of Aimard. He would go on to build up close relationships with some of the great composers of contemporary music including Elliott Carter, George Benjamin, György Kurtag and Harrison Birtwistle. He was also the soloist for a number of premieres of works, including pieces by Tristan Murail and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Some of the most important contemporary piano works were written for him

The 18 Études of Hungarian composer György Ligeti are considered one of the most significant set of piano studies in the 20th century, and Ligeti composed many of them especially for Aimard.

I lived this music with [Ligeti] for 15 years, almost constantly… and I still find it an overwhelming music; it’s immensely creative, incredibly original, marvellously imaginative, and a transfiguration of an incredibly troubled life.
Pierre-Laurent Aimard speaking to The Guardian’s Tom Service in 2007

He is one of the most trusted authorities on György Ligeti

The propinquity of Aimard’s working relationship with Ligeti has led to him becoming the go to person to understand the depth and expression in the composer’s music, and has collaborated on an interactive website dedicated to the work of the composer. Aimard has delivered fascinating masterclasses on the Hungarian composer’s work, which are as impassioned as they are committed.

György Ligeti: Musica ricercata No. 5 (Masterclass excerpt)

He’s not purely a contemporary performer

Though his reputation may have been cemented in his performances of the contemporary greats, Aimard is not averse to delivering stirring performances of core classical pieces. He is a respected interpreter of some of the greats, and in 2008 released a much-acclaimed recital of Bach’s Art of Fugue.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard - Prelude And Fugue In C (WTK, Book I, No.1), BWV 846

He doesn't like being pigeon-holed

Aimard has described himself as a person who doesn’t like to have one function, or just one perspective on music. He prefers to be part of a group and experience the music on different sides.

To be clear: I am not a conductor, and I will never be one. This is not my way of life, and I have nothing to do with that, and have no talent for that. But if you want me to give a definition to what I do, I wouldn't say I'm a pianist - I'm a musician, and the piano happens to be my instrument
Pierre-Laurent Aimard speaking to The Guardian’s Tom Service in 2007

He doesn’t always take himself too seriously

Such deeply emotional understanding of the music, especially when delivered in his considered heavily-accented English tones, would suggest this is a man who sees music as a serious business. But Aimard is a modest man, who isn’t afraid to let his guard down.

Toy Piano: A Guide

He’s enjoyed success outside the concert hall

His first Deutsche Grammophon release, Bach's Art of Fugue, received both the Diapason d'Or and Choc du Monde de la Musique awards. It also went straight in at No.1 on Billboard's classical chart and topped iTunes’ classical album download chart.


 

Pierre-Laurent Aimard performs in three concerts within our 2018/19 classical season.

Concerto for Orchestra

Stockhausen's Klavierstücke & Kontakte

Stockhausen: Piano, percussion & electronics