Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Queen Elizabeth Hall
Wednesday 20 October 2010
Pierre-Laurent Aimard may be 53, but he still comes across like the miraculous child he was when Messiaen made him his adoptive son.
He read complex musical scores the way other small boys read comics, and as his pianistic gifts grew brighter, he was taken up first by Boulez and then by Ligeti, who made him the test-pilot for scores of dubious playability. George Benjamin – another Messaien-devotee – has written works for Aimard to premiere, so it was fitting that Aimard should now return the compliment by opening with one of Benjamin’s most intricate scores.
‘Fantasy on Iambic Rhythm for Piano’ is just that: a piece of musical free-association in which a phrase with a limping pulse is put through a series of dizzying transformations. The way Aimard played it, one sensed still deeps beneath its busily emphatic surface; a melody emerged – atonal but quite graceful - with the climax coming in an explosion of triumphant chords. Aimard finished this in a frozen attitude, fist upraised, creating an atmosphere of cold impressiveness.
This was dissipated by the most bewitching performance of Ravel’s ‘Miroirs’ I have ever heard. This suite is at the same time entirely about the piano and also a supreme example of musical impressionism, and what Aimard did with it was magical. For each tone-poem – the darting nocturnal moths, the sleeping birds, the boat on the ocean – he conjured up a different sound-world, using a completely different touch; ‘The valley of the bells’ had a wonderfully misty expressiveness.
But if this is now Aimard’s home territory, the Chopin which followed clearly isn’t. He delivered the ‘Berceuse’ with a striking absence of seductiveness, though his rock-steady tempo and bright clarity of tone showed the piece in an interesting new light. But he totally missed the point of the second Scherzo, into which he segued without a break. Its first grand gesture seemed brisk and businesslike, rather than heroic, and so it was throughout: this great musical utterance emerged shorn of all its drama and poetry.
Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ variations reflect a Herculean creativity furiously straining to burst its bonds. With Aimard at the helm, every stage in this work’s crazy journey had its craziness intensified: no wonder he wasn’t in the mood to give an encore.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 4 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'