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Inspirational people

Pierre-Laurent Aimard plays colours
Watercolur on paper
Size: 14 x 21 cm

  Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Notes on the concert of 14 March, 2016 at the Angel Place concert hall in Sydney:

Pierre-Laurent Aimard is a special sort of pianist, one of those musicians who translate music with their whole body, a phenomenon you sometimes see with string players who stand to play but seldom with pianists, even the most active and virtuosic. Aimard played Olivier Messiaen's Vingt Regardes sur l'Enfant-Jésus (Twenty Contemplations of the Christ Child). It was an extraordinary concert that got a standing ovation, not so common for solo pianists.

In the pre-concert talk David Garrett spoke about Messiaen's religiosity, his detailed knowledge of Roman Catholic music and his use of this knowledge in the music he wrote but I missed religious references completely.Instead I heard very modernist piano music, mostly discordant, very colourful, sometimes melodic and despite the title of the piece, only occasionally what I would call contemplative. I found it unexpected, riveting, mesmerising.

The player undoubtedly had much to do with how his audience received the music. Aimard had been a friend of Messiaen and was a piano student of Messiaen's wife Yvonne Loriod, herself a virtuoso pianist so he knows the world of Messiaen better than most. The music seemed to take over Aimerd physical presence as he played. In the quiet beginnings of this two hour marathon it was only the mouth you noticed, a clenching and un-clenching that made him look as if he was chewing gum. As the concert progressed and the twenty contemplations became raucous this involuntary response enveloped more of Aimard's body. It was as if electrical waves were being transmitted by the piano strings. At times he rose off the stool, sitting a few inches above it with twisted body looking like a contortionist trick. At other times he seemed about to swallow the piano whole, such was his concentration and determination. It was impossible not to be swept away by his playing and the music.

The music was played with brilliance but I still wondered why I found it so very disarming. Was it the religious significance Messiaen gave it that added something I couldn't define? Later, reading the notes from the concert booklet and discovering that the piece was written for Loriod in a period when his love could not be acknowledged, I suddently understood. His next major piece was inspired by Tristan and Isolde.The pieces clicked into place!

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