Pianist Hélène Grimaud has just recorded a new CD of music by the Schumanns and Brahms. It is called Réflexions in French, and the English version, Reflection, DG 477 5719, will be released next month. Martine D. Mergeay met Grimaud in Brussels for an interview (Hélène Grimaud: perdre ses repères, December 9) published in La Libre Belgique, as the pianist was about to embark on a concert tour (after Belgium, she goes on to concerts in Rome, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, several of them with Yuri Temirkanov on the podium with different orchestras). The disc includes Robert Schumann's piano concerto (with Salonen and the Staatskapelle Dresden), Rückert songs by Clara Schumann (with Anne Sofie von Otter), the Brahms op. 38 sonata for cello and piano (with Truls Mørk), and the two Brahms rhapsodies for piano. The CD booklet contains excerpts from the letters of the three composers, collected by Grimaud during her preparation for the recording. Here is a bit of the interview (my translation):
We met the pianist at the Sheraton of Brussels National, the least Romantic place one can imagine, where Hélène -- now with brown hair and even more real -- greeted us in jeans and a sweater, hair askew, no makeup. Her voice is sweet but the conversation was rapid and continuous ("after 8 hours of interviewing, if I stop now, I'll collapse," she admits, smiling), her attitude is open, measured, welcoming. [...]Grimaud's latest cause is Amnesty International and groups working against violence towards women, for which she was playing her concert in Brussels. Mergeay notes that Grimaud gave her the brochures at the end of the interview. The concert was supposed to be Tuesday night, December 13, in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, with Chopin, Brahms, and Rachmaninov on the program. It has been rescheduled for February 27, 2006, because of Grimaud's illness. We wish her well.
The interview focuses on Schumann: Robert, the pianist, composer, and writer, was he not, like her, at the crossroads between music and words? "I was not thinking about that parallel, but yes, even if he is not the only one, Schumann is the musician of words par excellence. He felt the need to transcribe verbal rhythms in music, to communicate the poetry of both music and words. While he expressed himself so intensely in music, he also wanted to articulate his thoughts. And thus to betray them." [...]
Hélène Grimaud is often presented as the champion of sensibility, of direct expression, of passion, etc. That is surely how she appears in concert, but listening to her latest disc, one is above all struck by the analytical and structured side of her interpretation. "Well, yes, I don't quite know what to say about all that (!), but it corresponds to my idea of reconciling opposites. In Schumann, if all the identities are not brought together, you miss what is essential. That must be why I work mentally so much on Schumann's music, to keep his exuberance, his freshness." Mentally? "With a score more than at the piano, while searching for a very precise sonic image, formed in parallel with a physical sensation -- universal -- of the result. This is a way to be able to enter the «labyrinthe schumannien», that poetic essence that guides the research of my interpretation."
Also on Ionarts:
Chopin and Rachmaninov's Sonatas of Death (March 27, 2005)