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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.