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Feature: The Daily Beast/Women in the World (US)

The Daily Beast/Women in the World (US), 1 October 2013
Hélène Grimaud: Concert Pianist, Wolf Whisperer"Lots of people are coming to see you tonight," Hélène Grimaud whispers to Zephyr, an angsty 2-year-old Canadian wolf whimpering and pacing behind a steel fence. "Are you ready?" Grimaud squats down, squeezing three fingers through the wired enclosure and scratches his ear. He licks them frantically, panting in the August heat. In a few hours, a group of students will arrive at Grimaud's Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York, to see Zephyr and two other "ambassador" wolves, which are groomed for interaction with the public. Grimaud, who exhibits a placid calm when interacting with the wolf pack, is something of a wolf whisperer, which might seem an incongruous hobby for one of classical music's most respected-and controversial-contemporary pianists. "I tend to respond to anything that is raw and has this vital, magnetic quality," she tells me. When we meet at the Wolf Conservation Center, she is dressed in loose jeans, a black T-shirt, and mud-stained hiking shoes, but is as effortlessly beautiful as when on stage. She has distinctly Gallic good looks-piercing, lupine eyes, a diminutive nose and sumptuous mouth. Grimaud isn't like most classical pianists: her style is more untamed than refined and she often strays from the original score.