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Classical - Released March 30, 2018 | PentaTone

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
Can the title of a work influence the way that performers approach it? At any rate, Messiaen's two great piano masterpieces have titles which suggest very different musical experiences. Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus (1944) is steeped in religious fervour and contemplation, while Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956–1958) is a work with rather more of an ornithological bent. Indeed, the composer himself said to Claude Samuel: "I tried to render exactly the song of a bird typical of a given region, surrounded by its neighbours in that habitat, as well as expressions of its song at different times of day and night." But then he goes on to describe a more expressive and poetic side of the work. Birdsong, effectively, "bears in its harmonic and rhythmic material the scents and colours of the country in which the bird lives", and it is hardly possible to "exactly" transcribe the improbable rapidity of birdsong for any human instrument. One might have thought that "sonic reproduction" was the key idea behind the Catalogue d'oiseaux, but in the finished work, what we are listening to is a great composer, a master of innovative structures, finding a stunning range of piano sounds. In other words, in spite of its name, the Catalogue d’oiseaux is not a musical documentary, but rather a series of musical poems exploring birds and other wonders of nature – in France, as that is where all these delightful flying things happened to be found. Pierre-Laurent Aimard gives a reading of the (diabolical) score which is both super-precise and rigorous, and yet so poetic and inspired that one has the impression that he is taking dictation directly from the birds themselves. © SM/Qobuz
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Classical - Released August 11, 2017 | Ondine

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Classical - Released January 1, 2010 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions Diapason d'or - 4F de Télérama
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Classical - Released January 1, 2012 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Distinctions 4 étoiles de Classica
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Classical - Released January 1, 2011 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

Distinctions Special Soundchecks
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Classical - Released January 1, 2014 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet
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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet
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Classical - Released January 28, 1997 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released September 1, 2006 | Warner Classics International

Pierre-Laurent Aimard earned a reputation as a pianist unafraid of new music, and he usually achieved high praise for his recordings of twentieth century music. In the early 2000s, however, he returned to older repertoire, with mixed results. This recording of Schumann's Études Symphoniques and Carnaval is one of his better efforts. The Symphonic Etudes are generally considered one of Schumann's more reasoned works, an exercise in composition as much as a set of exercises for the pianist. Aimard, however, focuses on the temperament of the etudes rather than the ins and outs of Schumann's thoughts on thematic development. It's the careful attention to Schumann's Florestan and Eusebius characters -- named in one of Schumann's early titles for the work "Etudes im Orchestercharakter von Florestan und Eusebius" -- that makes Aimard's performance work. He does always bring out the melody and always makes it move and feel like a singer's interpretation, particularly in variations such as in Etude No. 2, which has a Schubertian, pulsing, chordal accompaniment. Aimard controls his energy and enthusiasm in the more outgoing variations to make every phrase count, just as he brings delicacy and beauty to the more inward-looking "Posthumus Variations" inserted as a group between Etudes No. 7 and No. 8. The finale could stand to have even more of the boldness that he puts into Etude No. 6. Carnaval is all about character, and Aimard plays with each dance a little more freely than he does the etudes. For the most part his playing is drier (i.e., with less pedaling), than most pianists', making the set less truly dance-like and more stylized in nature. His interpretations range from swirling excitement to hazy dreaminess, but some may find the more relaxed pieces too vague. Aimard chooses to play the Sphinxes, the two four-note ciphers that are the keys to Schumann's themes in Carnaval, and they stick out like a twentieth century serial piece in the middle of the others. Aimard has a tendency to overthink these two popular Schumann works, but there are many reasons to appreciate his interpretations. The recording's sound is less dimensional than desired for these temperamental works.
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Classical - Released January 1, 2014 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
It's a bit hard to ascertain what has propelled French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard to popularity that extends beyond usual classical spheres. He specializes in precisely the kind of High Modernist music that generally discourages crossover audiences. In earlier music he is an odd combination of precise and mercurial, and perhaps that's what people like about him. Bach's 24 preludes and fugues of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846-869, are a very diverse palette. It's a pianistic interpretation, with each prelude and fugue pair matched generally as to mood, but with subtle variation in the relationships across the set. The opening C major prelude is heavily pedaled and almost impressionistic, but after that Aimard backs off and begins to take a sinewy contrapuntal approach that emphasizes the little dissonances that are so much a part of the experience of playing Bach or listening to him closely. Whether or not the whole thing holds together is a matter of the individual listener's opinion, but it's not boring, and Aimard is aided by fine studio sound from Deutsche Grammophon that captures all the shades of what he is doing. Ultimately, Aimard's unexpected popularity may be all to the good.
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Classical - Released September 1, 2003 | Warner Classics International

Audiences recognize Pierre-Laurent Aimard for his expertise in twentieth century music, so it's no surprise to find him recording the music of Debussy. The composers he usually plays (e.g., Messiaen, Bartók, Ligeti) wrote more percussively for the piano than Debussy did, which perhaps explains why Aimard's Debussy isn't as smooth and soft as it could be. He can play quietly and gently, but there is distinctness in each note, no matter how gently or fast he is playing, that prevents the cushiony softness, those waves of color and sound usually expected in Debussy's Images and Études. In Reflets dans l'eau there are individual drops of water that don't quite meld into ripples of water. There are also a couple of points in Reflets where the melody is lost. Aimard comes closer to blending the notes in Cloches à travers les feuilles and Poissons d'or, but still doesn't quite make it. The separateness and semi-firmness of notes and chords isn't so much of a problem in the Études, particularly the first book, because they are less about painting pictures and more about studying piano technique. Of the whole disc, the Étude pour les huit doigts comes closest to the watercolor sound. Aimard's Debussy is good, but if one were expecting to see a Monet and got a Seurat instead, no matter how beautiful that Seurat is, there would be some degree of disappointment at not seeing what was expected.
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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Booklet
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Classical - Released February 25, 2000 | Warner Classics International

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Classical - Released July 12, 2005 | Warner Classics International

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Classical - Released April 1, 2002 | Warner Classics International

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Classical - Released January 1, 1995 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

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Classical - Released October 1, 2005 | Warner Classics International

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Classical - Released January 1, 2008 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

What's remarkable about Messiaen's very early Préludes pour piano, written in 1928 and 1929 when the composer was 20 while he was a student, is the individuality and assurance of his unique compositional voice. As much as these preludes are rooted in Debussian Impressionism, they are unambiguously the work of an original thinker with a distinctive aesthetic personality. Messiaen wrote the preludes soon after his mother's death and characterized them as a "collection of successive states of mind and personal feelings." While the set is mostly bathed in varieties of melancholy, the individual preludes have distinctive personalities, and not all are grief-stricken; there is also serenity, optimism, and even defiance in the face of his loss. The composer's language is mostly delicate and soft hued, but the emotional and musical depth of the eight preludes gives the set real power. The two movements from Catalogue d'oiseaux (1956-1958), and "Île de feu I and II" from Quatre Etudes de rythme (1950) are harmonically and gesturally more astringent, but they are still infused with a warm lyricism that was evident in the preludes. Pierre-Laurent Aimard is the ideal interpreter for Messiaen; he studied with Yvonne Loriod, the composer's wife, at the Paris Conservatory, and won first prize in the 1973 Olivier Messiaen International Competition. He has been playing Messiaen's music his entire career, and the nuance and finesse of his performance makes it sound like it's second nature to him. His playing shimmers with musical sensitivity, and even the complexity of the composer's later works seem effortless under his fingers. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean and present.
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Classical - Released January 23, 1998 | Sony Classical

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