Aimard cut his teeth for 18 years with Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, maturing as a musician and avoiding the pitfalls of entering a solo career at too young an age.
Known decades ago as a contemporary music specialist: the late Gy‹rgy Ligeti considered Aimard the leading performer of contemporary piano music: his current repertoire has no respect for time period, as demonstrated by his most recent project.
Ben Finane: When playing Bach's Art of Fugue, what are your musical priorities?
Pierre-Laurent Aimard: The Art of Fugue is incredibly challenging in terms of compositional technique. A lot of effort goes into trying to achieve a good polyphony, appropriate style, and then how to balance all this with expression, with the right level of intensity, an _lan that will be appropriate to some pieces: or playing with a kind of fantasy in the lines: something that is linked to the Baroque era. So it's how can you make the architecture present and also give the fullness of life to every piece.
BF: Are there qualities of Bach's music shared by some of the more modern, 20th-century masters?
PA: Bach was a phenomenal thinker, a master of order. But he had this incredible vitality, this mix of order and irresistible impulsions that gives a very special force to his music. I think we find a mix of qualities like that today, but in a very different way. There was a collective order in the Baroque period, but not today. In the case of Bach, his realization of certain compositions and genres was at such a high level: independent of the Baroque spark. He had the strength to isolate himself, when composing Art of Fugue, for example. In that way he reminds me of leading composers, say the avant-garde of today, who have at certain periods isolated themselves and have shown the compulsion for creation and the strength and determination to do so.
BF: What other of Bach's works most inspire you?
PA: The B Minor Mass has something unreachable in it. I am overwhelmed by the Passions every time. There is something in the late projects that is deeply moving, this severe choice to have kept the hard line; it is music of the highest discipline, the highest goal: composing for yourself, we would say today. Composing for God.
Visit Aimard's page at Deutsche Grammophon.