Monday, February 16, 2009

Pierre-Laurent Aimard in Saint Paul

Sandy and I attended not one but two Pierre-Laurent Aimard concerts this weekend, his final appearances as an Artistic Partner of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and had the pleasure of speaking with him after each show.

One was at a private party in the SPCO Center. Pierre-Laurent played solo piano for an hour, beginning with 4 pieces from The Art of Fugue by J.S. Bach. These were followed by Debussy's Suite Bergamasque, which contains the famous Clair de Lune, then Chopin's Berceuse (Lullaby), with its compelling ostinato and chromaticism. The recital ended with two magnificent performances of Ravel: Noctuelles and La Vallee des Cloches, the one frantically conjuring up the erratic flight of moths, while the other reminds me of one of those sunken plains in the south of France, where nothing impedes the sound of village bells. Pieere-Laurent introduced each piece, giving the audience unique insights into the artistry of these compositions.

The other was at the Ordway Theater, where the program was Beethoven's first two Piano Concertos, and George Benjamin's At First Light. Pierre-Laurent conducted the Beethoven from the piano, and conducted the Benjamin in between, a piece for 14 players, in which Skip James played piano and celeste.