French pianist admires Debussy as "hedonist" of sound

Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:27pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard describes Claude Debussy as a "hedonist" of sound, and perhaps that's what makes both of them so French.

"I know that if I use these words in this country, or in Germany, this would be interpreted in another way," the voluble 54-year-old titan of the modern piano repertoire, as well as the classics, told Reuters over coffee at a London hotel.

"In France, not at all," he said, adding that Debussy was admired and appreciated for his "deep intensity, soft sensuality and incredible precision".

Aimard chose his words carefully during an interview while on a visit to pick out a piano for a BBC Proms recital on September 3 in which he will play the second book of the late-19th, early 20th-century composer's famous preludes.

The first book contains some of Debussy's most popular works, such as "La Cathedrale Engloutie" (The Submerged Cathedral), which the Japanese composer Isao Tomita turned into a 1970s hit in an arrangement for Moog synthesizer.

Aimard has recorded both books but the second is the gnarlier of the two, which is perhaps why Aimard - who loves nothing more than to tackle a fiendishly difficult etude by his one-time close friend, the late Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti - will play it at Cadogan Hall.

"Why No. 2? Because of the development of everything in the second book, how it stretches in terms of harmonies, space, ambiguity," he said.

"Debussy was one of the three big modernist composers, with Stravinsky and Schoenberg, but without making a revolution, almost discreetly. You could say he's deep, but in a tradition of hedonism in music.   Continued...