Preparing the Perfect Moment
Pierre-Laurent Aimard is a classical pianist and professor at the Paris Conservatory and the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. Born in Lyon, France, he is widely acclaimed as a key figure in contemporary music, and has performed around the globe with the world’s major orchestras and conductors such as Pierre Boulez, Christoph von Dohnányi, Christoph Eschenbach, Daniel Harding, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Jonathan Nott, Seiji Ozawa, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Franz Welser-Möst. An honorary member of the Royal Academy of Music, as of 2009 he will also serve as the Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival in England.
Question: How do you prepare for your concerts?
Pierre Laurent Aimard: I have to answer on the larger picture, if I may. We have a strange life. We're supposed to make something fresh on stage. When we plan everything two or three years in advance so our programs are supposed to take into account our point of view on art, on masterpieces, lets' say. Our relationship with an audience, our plan at a given place, at a given moment, and our own forces in order to be okay at a given moment for playing this and that, and to be ready. Well, one can just try our best, but we're supposed to integrate the way to be ready with this or that piece. That means to play it enough to prepare it in the right way, to have the type of imagination that … to play this piece on the proper way.
Some pieces, for instance, are not hard technically, but emotionally or artistically very fragile. Some others will be very demanding physically, let's say. Others can be played only at some moments in your life, etc., etc. So, there is a kind of construction that allows us to play this and that pieces combined at a given moment.
And then when the moment arrives, to know yourself well enough to anticipate and see what you need, work, sleep, awoke, an exhibition, a good lecture, a good book, I don't know what else. A good meal maybe.
Question: What happens if you make a mistake?
Pierre Laurent Aimard: It depends on the mistake. If it's a wrong note; it's done, it's too late, only not to lose control because of that. That's a part of life to make wrong notes and by chance, I'm not a pilot for a plane, or I'm not a soldier, so my mistakes will have less tragic consequences than others. But anyway, somewhere on stage at a given moment we feel that there is a kind of life risk, or absolute emergency situation, so it seems that a mistake is, yes, the most horrifying thing in a musician's life. But it is our life, we have to deal with that and go on and try to go on saving the piece we are serving. So, the goal, I would say, is to consider the mistake in the general vision. How can we make it so that the audience will not lose the piece and the light, the sense, the general picture of the piece, even with these mistakes? This is, I think, the priority.
Question: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in your career?
Pierre Laurent Aimard: It seems that there are often challenges like that.
You know, the stage is not an easygoing place. It’s very impressive, it's quite frightening, and for instance, if you play a piece for a composer, especially the first time, this is quite impressive. So, I remember some moments playing for Mr. Boulay for instance, or Mr. Ligeti, or other creators, where I wouldn't wish too many people to live this kind of feeling.
Now, if you have told for your career, what does this mean? A general vision or development. So, maybe I should speak about one of these moments when you take the risk to make something that represents a lot of risk, but that will add a dimension to your own activity. So, maybe for instance when I answered positively to Mr. **** when he proposed to record the five Beethoven Concertos. This was very challenging because this was not supposed to be a territory where I could be necessarily good, and at this moment they were quite new pieces for me. I had played very few of these concertos before. Three of them never before, because I always thought, my God, so many colleagues play that, sometimes good, for some of them remarkably. Why another one? There are many other priorities. And I thought, why to add another more, or less, good or bad interpretation.
But then suddenly came this proposition and an immense wish to make music with an exceptional musician. And I thought, well I felt, this could be something that could add enormously to your life, well, and I've taken the risk. Well, this transformed my life, sometimes when I hear the recordings; I thought that I make a very risky choice, but too late.
Preparing for a piano concert is a strange process. But, as the musician explains, crafting an incredible experience always is.