MAINTENANCE | Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Messiaen and the Love of Birds

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, pianist. (Photo: Julie Wesel)

A unique and fascinating musical adventure will take place at the Festival international de Lanaudière this weekend: Pierre-Laurent Aimard translates the whole bird catalog by Olivier Messiaen in four recitals.

Contacted by phone in Berlin, the pianist tells us about this project and his relationship with the great French composer.

The last time Pierre-Laurent Aimard went to Quebec, he played Bartok’s Concerto No. 1 with OSM at the Maison symphonique, a spectacular performance.

LVM: “You studied Yvonne Loriod, who was Messiaen’s wife and to whom he dedicated this Catalog of birds. These are good reasons for interpreting this cycle, which you have recorded, but surely you have other reasons.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: “I believe that this is an important cycle in the history of the piano and in the history of music in general, for many reasons. However, it is not so much today in periods, especially in general. Almost nothing it is given in its entirety, and I find it important to give it. First, it is a monument to the piano. There is a writing for the instrument that has a virtuosity and a color that is completely specific and original, and there is a great awakening power for the listener.

Next, it is a work rooted in the 1950s, which are avant-garde years, and it is a work of a personal language and beauty, but it is more avant-garde, because the language is still new. , the origin is completely new. We have never written music completely inspired or based on music from nature, with often songs that are not songs, and with forms that also come from nature and not from human culture. So we have a kind of creativity, research on timbre, on time, on sounds with sound conditions, as well as an integration of silence as a musical component. This makes it a very innovative work.

It is also a prophetic work because it is a nature hymn. To create a catalog of bird songs there is a method, almost scientific desire to create a group of representatives of nature heard. However, we know what has happened to nature since then, and especially to birds. Ornithologists tell us that today we can no longer hear a third of the birds singing in these catalogs. It is a work that, as a testimony and as an announcement, now has an important meaning. I’ve noticed that audiences these days are more moved by the work than they were a few decades ago. »

LVM: each bird also represents a province of France?

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: “In fact, there is a desire to unite, in one scene, a certain number of participating birds, to identify pieces that, even if they are based on the same principle, have a unique different. »

LVM: according to the festival program, it looks like you changed the order of the pieces?

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: “Yes and no. Yes, if you’re talking about order of publication, but order of publication is not necessarily order of performance because these are not works designed for the traditional post-romantic ritual of the concert. Their form, their dramaturgy does not correspond to this structure, and all these pieces, which make up a corpus of two and a half hours, were never intended for the proportions of a traditional concert. So that I propose a particular event that is divided in time, and makes us travel in time, throughout the day, as the games invite us to do. This is to find a form for this set of pieces – which not really a cycle, moreover – which is more in line with his spirit and making the journey of time that this catalog can be felt, in other words a kind of ordering of listening to nature through people. »

LVM: you know and rub Messiaen well. Can you tell us about it? What impressed you most about him?

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: “I’ve known him since I was 12 years old, so since 1969, so it’s been a long journey. What always attracted me about him was his inner peace. He is a very peaceful being. And his ability to listen. Acoustic phenomena, of course, but also people, and that’s what makes him a great teacher. He was a man with an extraordinary ability to observe, by listening. He is very considerate of people. »

LVM: are you, yourself, a lover of nature, animals, forests?

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: “Like any person, yes, I am connected to nature. At first, my first steps in the observation of nature and especially the ornithological observation, I owe them to Messiaen, because to try to understand this catalogs of birds and to play it well, I tried to do what he did many times. And what I observed is that nature dictates another time for us, another time to listen. A time that based on patience. Sometimes we have to wait a long time for a bird’s song. And also, a time based on the unexpected, because you never know who will sing, when, and from where direction. This is a kind of listening that is not at all what we have in the West.

From this point of view, Messiaen teaches us to listen. Nature invites us to observe, to reflect and there again, at that time we are less active and active listeners than when we listen to other music. When you go to nature, you don’t know what will happen and what you will hear, but if you decide to go and listen to this or that symphony, it is a choice, and you know what kind of form or dramaturgy you go. to expose yourself. There must be an acceptance form. Besides, the best audience I have for the Catalog of birds is not a traditional concert audience, but the public in a bird sanctuary, with walk-in observers. They immediately understood the meaning of this music, and how to listen to it. I found this to be an ideal audience. »

LVM: would you like to add a word in conclusion?

Pierre-Laurent Aimard: “I was happy to meet an audience that agreed to come at a strange time to experience a musical adventure. The stage is not a place for conventional and cultural demagoguery, it is a place for discovery and adventure, sometimes daring. To see that people are willing to share it, it really touched me. »

Schedule of recitals by Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the Fernand-Lindsay Amphitheater:

Recital 1: Friday, July 22, 10 pm. Before the concert, starting at 8 pm, there will be a screen projection of bird songs, followed by a musical nap with the harp. DETAILS AND TICKETS

Recital 2: Saturday July 23, 8 am Breakfast, coffee and pastries, from 7 am. DETAILS AND TICKETS

Recital 3: Saturday July 23, 2 pm A musical trail walk is offered after the concert. DETAILS AND TICKETS

Recital 4: Saturday July 23, 8 pm DETAILS AND TICKETS

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