Hélène Grimaud’s new Deutsche Grammophon album, Memory, stirs profound emotions through the elegant simplicity of miniatures by Chopin, Debussy, Satie, Valentin Silvestrov and Nitin Sawhney

Meditations on Memory

Memory cover

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Music has been described as a means of rescuing that which is lost – a simple yet persuasive idea and one which informs Hélène Grimaud’s working definition of the art form. The French pianist’s latest Deutsche Grammophon recording addresses music’s unique ability to bring images of the past back to life in the present moment, to conjure up vivid evocations of time and place. Memory, set for release on 28 September 2018, explores the nature of recollection through a series of exquisite pianistic miniatures. Grimaud’s choice of repertoire embraces everything from impressionistic reveries by Chopin and Debussy to the timeless, folk-like melodies of Valentin Silvestrov.

https://youtu.be/aSI8Urfq0FM

Memory and music make perfect partners. Both are fleeting, never fixed, always subject to interpretation. Our identities are formed from memories, just as so many of our most enduring experiences are rooted in music. Hélène Grimaud wanted to explore the universal nature of memory, its place in the lives of us all. Memory, she explains, uses music to probe the many levels of human consciousness.

“Music peels back the layers of time to reveal the essence of experience,” she observes. “Momentary pain, distress, elation, fades – what remains is sensation. Sensation is the resonance of experience in the space of memory. And it is the space where music resonates within each of us – touching us, moving us, bringing us closer to ourselves. In that way, music can also help remind us that for all in our daily lives that is trivial, there’s a place where meaning is stored. And that it is not forgetfulness that is our burden, but the capacity to reflect and remember that is the wonder of being alive.” The pianist’s eloquent discourse on memory touches both the universal and the particular. It reveals, above all, much about her sensibility for music as a natural process, one shaped in the moment of creation and re-creation by instinct and intuition.

Memory follows in the wake of Grimaud’s Water album, a thought-provoking consideration of the world’s most precious resource. Her latest release complements its predecessor, not least by exploring another condition of life all too easily taken for granted until it begins to disappear.

Grimaud chose compositions that speak directly to memory, creating a programme of works which through their simplicity can bypass the barriers of rational thinking to unlock powerful moods, feelings and sensations. These miniatures are not weighty structures; rather, they possess what she aptly describes as immaterial qualities. Each of the album’s fifteen tracks suggests fleeting impressions of a thought recollected, a dream reimagined, an experience recalled to mind. Memory, she says, “serves to conjure atmospheres of fragile reflection, a mirage of what was – or what could have been”.

Her artistry flourished in the sacred space of the Himmelfahrtskirche in Munich’s Sendling district. The recording venue, a former beer hall converted into a church a century ago, made a lasting impression on her. “The feeling of being alone in a cavernous, resonant space, a building itself constructed as a vessel for spiritual introspection, was immersive,” she recalls. “I am not necessarily a natural colourist yet to be surrounded by resonance – of the notes and between the notes – profoundly changes one’s concept of producing sound. The music must be so transparent as to allow the poetry to shimmer though.”

For composers, memory plays a central role in transmitting influence. Debussy, for instance, absorbed formative lessons from his studies of Chopin and recalled them later in life when composing pieces such as Rêverie and La plus que lente. His musical language also drew impressions from the harmonies of his friend Erik Satie. The points of coincidence emerge clearly in Memory.

Hélène Grimaud highlights the meditative character of works by all three composers, surrounding the heartfelt nostalgia of Chopin’s Nocturne in E minor Op.72 No.1 with a sequence of Satie’s minimalist miniatures, the first of his famous sets of Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies among them. The pianist also spotlights the common ground between two of Silvestrov’s subtle Bagatelles, products of the early 2000s, and Debussy’s beguiling Arabesque No.1 in E major, an early work inspired by the elegant lines and curves of Nature.

Hélène Grimaud compares Valentin Silvestrov’s keyboard miniatures to the image of ‘breathing light’, a poetic metaphor that might easily stand for the haunting impressions left by Memory.


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“Water” at Gstaad Menuhin Festival

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Hélène at the Festival in 2013 © Mat Hennek

Hélène at the Festival in 2013 © Mat Hennek

GALA Concert: Chamber Music
Monday, 6 August 2018
7.30 pm, Saanen Church

Hélène Grimaud made her debut in Gstaad in 2003 with Brahms’ First Piano Concerto, followed ten years later by a performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto with the LSO. She performed a recital of Bach and Beethoven in 2009, in 2011 she appeared with Sol Gabetta (prelude to a magnificent recording), and in 2013 she performed Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto with the Basel Chamber Orchestra. Hélène Grimaud is back to perform a recital inspired by the theme of water in the church in Saanen on August 6th. The programme features works by nine composers: it opens with Berio’s Wasserklavier and includes Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II, Fauré’s Barcarolle No.5, Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, “Almería” from Albéniz’s Iberia, Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este and the first movement of Janáček’s In the Mists, as well as Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie. After the intermission, audience will hear Brahms’ dramatic Sonata no. 2.

Source: Gstaad Menuhin Festival

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Shared Passion

Photo © Mat Hennek

Photo © Mat Hennek

Hélène and Yannick Nézet-Séguin have performed together all over the world, and this spring brings more of their artistic connection, performing monumental works of Beethoven and Brahms, in concert halls across two continents.

Their collaboration has been so successful that Yannick’s home Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal has just been awarded the Opus Prize for “Concert of the year – classical, romantic, postromantic, impressionist music” for Yannick’s and Hélène’s performance of Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3.

In May this year, Hélène will return to Philadelphia where she performs Beethoven Piano Concerto No.4 and Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 with Yannick and the Philadelphia Orchestra at Verizon Hall. The orchestra will then embark on a European tour with Hélène, performing Brahms Piano Concerto No.1 in Brussels, Luxembourg, Paris, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Vienna and Haifa.

10th May, Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

11th May, Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

17th May, Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4

20th May, Verizon Hall, Philadelphia
Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4

24th May, Bozar, Brussels
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

25th May, Philharmonie, Luxembourg
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

26th May, Philharmonie, Paris
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

27th May, Tonhalle, Dusseldorf
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

28th May, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

31st May, Musikverein, Vienna
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

3rd June, Rappaport Hall, Haifa
Brahms – Piano Concerto No. 1

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First 2018 Europe Tour: Beethoven, Ravel and Woodlands

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In an unmissable start to 2018, Hélène performs with Philharmonia Zurich and Fabio Luisi in a tour across Spain, followed by further performances with the orchestra and Teodor Currentzis in Zurich and Vienna. In February, Hélène will perform Beethoven Piano Concerto. No.4 alongside Munich Philharmonic and Valerie Gergiev, followed by a performance of the acclaimed collaboration project, Woodlands and Beyond…, with fine art photographer Mat Hennek, in Munich.

  • 14th January   Zurich Opernhaus
    Philharmonia Zurich / Fabio Luisi
    Beethoven, 4. Piano Concerto in G major op. 58
  • 16th January   Auditorio Nacional de Musica, Madrid
    Philharmonia Zurich / Fabio Luisi
    Beethoven, 4. Piano Concerto in G major op. 58
  • 17th January   Palau de la Musica, Valencia
    Philharmonia Zurich / Fabio Luisi
    Beethoven, 4. Piano Concerto in G major op. 58
  • 18th January   Auditorio de la Alicante
    Philharmonia Zurich / Fabio Luisi
    Beethoven, 4. Piano Concerto in G major op. 58
  • 25th January    Zurich Opernhaus
    Philharmonia Zurich / Teodor Currentzis
    Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major
  • 26th January   Wiener Konzerthaus
    Philharmonia Zurich / Teodor Currentzis
    Ravel, Piano Concerto in G major
  • 22nd February   Philharmonie im Gasteig
    Munich Philharmonic / Valerie Gergiev
    Beethoven, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
  • 24th February   Philharmonie im Gasteig
    Munich Philharmonic / Valerie Gergiev
    Beethoven, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
  • 25th February   Philharmonie im Gasteig
    Munich Philharmonic / Valerie Gergiev
    Beethoven, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
  • 26th February   Philharmonie im Gasteig
    Munich Philharmonic / Valerie Gergiev
    Beethoven, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 4 in G major, Op. 58
  • 3rd March   Philharmonie im Gasteig
    Woodlands and Beyond…
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