The New York Philharmonic

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Pierre Laurent Aimard

Beethoven, Messiaen, and Murail

Beethoven, Messiaen, and Murail

Recorded April 11, 2013

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Conductor

David Robertson by Michael Tammaro David Robertson launched his 11th season as music director of the St. Louis Symphony in the fall of 2015; he has also served as chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra since January 2014. Highlights of the 2015–16 season with the St. Louis Symphony include a California tour featuring Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles..., with video imagery by photographer Deborah O’Grady, and soloist Timothy McAllister performing John Adams’s Saxophone Concerto. The concerto was part of the latest St. Louis Symphony recording, City Noir, on Nonesuch, which received the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. Other highlights for Mr. Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony are the U.S. Premiere of Tan Dun’s Contrabass Concerto and John Adams’s most recent symphony for violin, Scheherazade.2 — Dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra, performed by Leila Josefowicz (co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw). The Scheherazade.2 performances are being recorded live by Nonesuch for future release. To celebrate his decade-long tenure with the St. Louis Symphony in 2014–15, David Robertson showcased 50 of the orchestra’s musicians in solo or solo-ensemble performances throughout the season. Other highlights included a concert performance of Verdi’s Aida featuring video enhancements by S. Katy Tucker, and a return to Carnegie Hall with a program featuring the music of Meredith Monk. In 2013–14 David Robertson led the St. Louis Symphony at Carnegie Hall in Britten’s Peter Grimes on the Britten centennial. In March 2015, David Robertson led a performance of Holst’s The Planets with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and a “Global Orchestra,” in which musicians around Australia performed along through the Internet. Born in California, David Robertson was educated at London’s Royal Academy of Music, where he studied horn and composition before turning to conducting. He received Columbia University’s 2006 Ditson Conductor’s Award, and he and the St. Louis Symphony are recipients of several major awards from ASCAP and the League of American Orchestras, including the 2008–09 Award for Programming of Contemporary Music as well as the 2005–06 Morton Gould Award for Innovative Programming. Musical America named David Robertson Conductor of the Year in 2000. In 2010 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and that same year he received the Excellence in the Arts award from the St. Louis Arts and Education Council. In 2011 he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. 

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Piano

Pierre Laurent Aimard by Felix Broede DG

Pierre-Laurent Aimard performs throughout the world each season with major orchestras under conductors including Esa-Pekka Salonen, Christoph von Dohnányi, Gustavo Dudamel, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Peter Eötvös, and Simon Rattle. Artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival, he has also created, directed, and performed in residencies at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Vienna’s Konzerthaus, Berlin’s Philharmonie, Lucerne Festival, Mozarteum Salzburg, Tanglewood Festival, and London’s Southbank Centre. Highlights of Mr. Aimard’s 2012–13 season include solo recitals in London, New York, Chicago, Paris, and Tokyo; concerto appearances with the Budapest Festival Orchestra, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg; and directing concerts from the keyboard with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

Born in Lyon in 1957, Pierre-Laurent Aimard studied at the Paris Conservatoire with Yvonne Loriod and in London with Maria Curcio. In 1973 he won first prize in the Messiaen Competition, and three years later Pierre Boulez appointed him to become the Ensemble Intercontemporain’s first solo pianist. He received the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist Award in spring 2005 and was named “Instrumentalist of the Year” by Musical America in 2007.

Mr. Aimard records exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon. His first DG release, a recording of Bach’s Art of Fugue, received the Diapason d’Or and Choc du Monde de la Musique awards, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s classical chart, and topped iTunes’s classical album download chart. He has received ECHO Classik Awards, most recently in 2009, for his recording of solo piano pieces titled Hommage à Messiaen, and he has received Germany’s Schallplattenkritik Honorary Prize and a Grammy Award. Pierre-Laurent Aimard made his New York Philharmonic debut in November–December 2002 performing Janáček’s Capriccio and Richard Strauss’s Burleske in D minor conducted by Christoph von Dohnanyi. In his most recent appearance, in December 2007, he performed Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Stockhausen’s Klavierstueck VIII (a solo encore performed in memory of Stockhausen, who died that week), conducted by Philippe Jordan.

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Les Offrandes oubliées

OLIVIER MESSIAEN (1908–1992)
Les Offrandes oubliées (1930)

From an early age, Olivier Messiaen was a devout Catholic who wanted to "shed light on the theological truths of the Catholic faith" through music and musical symbols. This objective — along with his preoccupation with the sounds of nature, especially birds and their song — dominated virtually all of his creative output. And, like Scriabin, he had the gift of synaesthesia, which enabled him to see colors when he heard pitches. His voice among 20th century composers had a unique, personal vocabulary that ecstatically celebrated God and life; his soundscapes were sensuous and harmonically rich; and his music shimmered with exotic inspirations gained from his avid interest in Eastern music. Les Offrandes oubliées, Messiaen's first published orchestral work, concerns mankind's sinfulness and the possibility of redemption. He provides a prose-poem for the one-movement work: "Arms outstretched, afflicted unto death, you shed your blood on the cross. We have forgotten, sweet Jesus, how you love us. Driven onward by madness and forked tongues, in breathless, uncontrolled, and headlong flight, we have fallen into sin like a bottomless pit. It is here to be found, the unsullied table, the source of charity, the feast of the poor, the well of holy sympathy which is to us the very bread of life and love. We have forgotten, sweet Jesus, how you love us." Les Offrandes oubliées is comprised of three continuous sections, Messiaen explains: "The Cross" (nearly slow, sorrowful, profoundly sad), "a lamentation of the strings, whose sorrowful 'neumes' divide the melody into groups of uneven lengths, broken by deep-grey and mauve sighs"; "Sin" (quick, savage, desperate, breathless), "a kind of 'race towards the abyss' at an almost mechanized speed"; "The Eucharist" (extremely slow, with great compassion and great love) "features the long and slow phrase of the violins, which rises over a carpet of pianissimo chords, with reds, gold, blues (like a distant stained-glass window) to the light of muted solo chords." At the end, this symphonic meditation becomes a wave of sound that seems to hang suspended in a kind of timelessness that points towards eternity.

Piano Concerto

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Symphony No. 2

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Symphony No. 2 (1801–1802)

Ludwig van Beethoven completed his Second Symphony in 1802 at Heiligenstadt, a country village near Vienna and the place that gave its name to the composer's heartbreaking "Heiligenstadt Testament" — an unsent confessional letter that reveals his near-suicidal anguish over his growing deafness. Fortunately for posterity, Beethoven chose life over death in order that he might express through his art all that was in his soul, writing: "It seemed to me impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt was within me." Despite the backdrop of his personal crisis the composition's mood is upbeat and sunny, with only a few passing clouds. (Berlioz remarked that "this symphony is smiling throughout.") The Symphony No. 2 was premiered in 1803 on a mammoth program that by today's standards had enough material for at least two concerts: the Symphony No. 1, plus additional first performances of the oratorio Christ on the Mount of Olives and the Piano Concerto No. 3 with Beethoven as conductor and piano soloist. Even though we usually think of the "Eroica" of 1804 as being the musical shot heard round the world, the Second Symphony already carries within it some of the orchestral power, energy, and drive we identify with Beethoven. Bookended by a dramatic slow introduction (à la Haydn or Mozart) and an extended raucous coda played at full speed, there is the second movement Larghetto, described by Berlioz as "a ravishing picture of innocent pleasure ... wholly and serenely happy," and a Scherzo where soft and loud dynamics are traded by the orchestra in lively banter. As you listen, keep in mind Beethoven's words to F.G. Wegeler: "I will seize Fate by the throat. It will not wholly conquer me! Oh, how beautiful it is to live — and live a thousand times over!"
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