Preview: Prom 64: Aimard/Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Albert Hall, London

Messiaen's spirit lives on in adoptive son
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The Independent Culture

Sunday evening's Prom brings a key figure back into the frame. Lang Lang may make more noise, and Daniel Barenboim may resonate beyond the confines of the concert hall, but for sheer ubiquitousness no musician can compare with the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

He's fronting the year-long Messiaen Festival in London, while leading a similar push in France, devising concerts in New York and Vienna, officiating as pianist-in-residence with the Berlin Philharmonic, and as artist-in-residence in Salzburg, Cleveland and Lucerne, while at the same time holding professorships in Paris and Cologne. All the while, releasing a stream of award-winning recordings.

He insists that he was never a wunderkind, but he was a precocious infant pianist, and at the age of eight felt as at home with the 20th century as with Baroque, and was happily playing Schoenberg. "I was passionately curious about his music," he says. "And I loved reading new music on the page – I read it as I read novels. All my pocket money went on scores – first it was Beethoven's string quartets, then Boulez's Second Sonata, then increasingly complex works."

As a 12-year-old at the Paris Conservatoire he began to study with Yvonne Loriod, through whom he got to know her husband Olivier Messiaen.

"They decided to make me their adoptive son. I toured with them and turned pages for them. His musical language became my mother tongue, even more than that of Bach and Mozart. But ... unlike Beethoven, who welds all his elements into a coherent musical argument, Messiaen piles his elements on top of each other and leaves us to make what sense we can."

But he's carrying the Messiaen torch this year, despite this reservation: "I want to share my love of it, and let it shine."

Tonight, with Aimard at the keyboard and Simon Rattle on the podium, Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony certainly will.

2 September (0845 401 5040)

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