The Pursuit of Discipline

Artistic Director, Aldeburgh Festival
There is nothing more tragic in a life, believes the classical pianist, than not meeting the potential of one’s talents. To stave off this tragedy, he explains, one must learn to fight for quality in everything they do.
  • Transcript


Question: What is your practice regiment?

Pierre Laurent Aimard: Work, work, and work. If you want to realize something, to realize it really in any discipline, you have to work enormously. Not just for competition, but for yourself, for achieving something. That's the only way. But of course, only if work makes sense. If you work on something you believe to and with the concentration and nourishing always your work with yourself and your creativity and your soul as one would say in Slavic countries.

It changed a lot because of course your relation with work is different when you have more experience. You can have a better icodemy of your work. It changes a lot also in terms of the performing arts because the performance takes a lot in itself, of time, of travels, all the parts of the activity that interferes with the discipline itself; travels, concerts, interviews, etc. So, you have to – if you intend to keep quality with what you do, you have to fight strongly for preserving the work on the discipline itself and not just on the frames. In other words, not to be a victim of your success, what one could see everyday so much with very famous, or not so famous, people. This is for me, the saddest part of mankind when somebody becomes disappointing in compare with the talents he or she had at the start. So, what can protect you, hopefully against this disease, the mirror somewhere, to try everyday to decide, this was not good enough. This is not myself enough. I'm not risky enough, or I'm too much risky. I'm not prepared enough, etc., etc. So the mirrors are from all kinds. It can be your own years, recordings, etc., can be your friends, but the true friends, the friends who say the hard truth, you know, your judges somewhere. And all the professional that can really help you to become better, or to try to become better.

Question: Do you ever doubt your talent?

Pierre Laurent Aimard: Oh, constantly. But also there is the belief. It's a mix, it's a balance. You can do nothing -- you have go the talent, you know, it's a presence. Well, it's a gift of God, would say people who believe in God, or it's in your chemical structure you would say if you are the sum or the neurologist what I am. The only thing you can do is to work on the best way possible with this talent, or to honor this talent, I could say. So, this is what I try to do, sometimes I have the feeling that I succeed, often that I don't.

As I think that life is a permanent challenge to try to develop yourself the best way you can, very often I think that's the challenges I have chosen, for me, are too high maybe, or are not the right challenges. And then I don't. But then I think I have a lot of obstination. So I go on and on and ahead, and sometimes it works. But of course, it's a permanent fight with yourself.

Question: Would you ever advise a musician to quit playing?

Pierre Laurent Aimard: I presume that the person that would ask that, there aren't many of them, I guess, are even able to decide on their own. I can't tell you the admiration that I had for the great Master, Mr. Alfred Brendle. Not only for having done the music he has done in his life and inspired us to highly, but also for having decided to stop at a given moment. I regretted that, I missed him as an artist on stage. But my God, I respect him so much. A big courage. A big mastery and self-control.