Hélène Grimaud’s latest album for Deutsche Grammophon, produced by Nitin Sawhney, was inspired by her abiding fascination with Nature’s most precious gift. Water is set for worldwide release on January 29, 2016 and conveys imaginative responses to everything from mighty oceans and great lakes to raindrops and snowflakes as well as inviting listeners to contemplate the mounting threats to the safety, security and supply of this essential resource.
“What inspired the idea to record this album is really the fascination that so many composers of the 19th and 20th centuries seem to have had with the element of water,” Grimaud states. Not only did this sow the seed for a recording, it also grew into a collaboration between the pianist and Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon. Their site-specific installation tears become… streams become… was created for the Wade Thompson Drill Hall at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in December 2014. Described by the New York Times as a “compelling, boldly original work”, the project blended elements of art, music and architecture, with Grimaud’s water-themed programme located at its core. Gordon transformed the cavernous Drill Hall by slowly flooding its vast floor to create the impression of what he described as an endless “field of water,” entirely surrounding the grand piano at which Grimaud performed.
The album 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, before closing with Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie. These myriad reflections on the qualities of water were recorded live at the Armory during the installation and then connected and woven into the album narrative by seven “Transitions” that were newly composed, recorded and produced by Sawhney. Grimaud was delighted to work with the award-winning composer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist, praising his ability to highlight “the universal human dependence on our planet’s most precious resource” and weave “contrasting poetic and philosophical perspectives into a single, cogent musical ecosystem.”
Each piece on this new album unfolds as part of an acoustic “stream”, carefully structured in its blend of classical and contemporary compositions, yet experimental in its overall aesthetic.
Hélène Grimaud is not only one of the world’s most celebrated pianists, but also a tireless champion of ecological causes, having founded the Wolf Conservation Center, which raises awareness of the importance and relationship of these top predators to our ecosystem. With Water, the insightful Grimaud has united her twin passions for music and the environment in unique fashion.