Day By Day

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Perfect Evening

A few days ago “She Who Must Not Be Named” and I ventured up to Hopkins to hear Pierre-Laurent Aimard perform at Shriver Hall. Aimard is a wonderful artist; possibly, according to the Los Angeles Times, “France’s finest pianist of a generation or two (or ever)”. High praise, indeed, and he lived up to it. The program spanned three centuries of Western music, from Bach to Schoenberg, and Aimard was fully at home in each era. He presented a marvelous display of technical virtuosity and interpretive sensitivity.

The program began with eleven counterpoints from Bach’s “Art of the Fugue”. This is one of the most famous works in the Western canon and rightly so. In it the greatest practitioner of the form exhaustively and rigorously explores its possibilities. Fugues start simply, with the statement of a single “idea” which is gradually elaborated into a marvelously complex pattern. Aimard’s approach was forthright; deliberate, precise, and at first almost ponderous. But as the fugue began to develop his artistry asserted itself and he proceeded surely through the complexities that emerged.

After the intermission Aimard shifted gears radically and performed 5 Klavierstucke by Arnold Schoenberg, a twentieth century modernist famous for his explorations of atonality. The shift in styles and techniques was stunning and emphasized Aimard’s famous ability to perform brilliantly in a variety of modes. The evening concluded with a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano No. 31 in A-flat Major, another radical shift in technique and mood. This is Beethoven at his most lyrical, the first movement requiring a delicate, flowing approach that stood in sharp contrast to everything we had heard before. Then, in the third movement, the piece ended with a fugue, returning us to something like our starting point for the evening and allowing us to hear the different approaches taken by two of the greatest figures in the Western musical tradition toward that rigorously defined form.

After the concert we joined some friends and headed down to “Gertrudes” at the BMA for dinner. A superb and instructive evening of great music performed by a magnificent artist, good food and stimulating conversation with friends – not bad…, not bad.

Here's Aimard performing Messiaen's Regard X "Regard de l'Esprit de Joie" Enjoy!