The Gilmore

News: Hélène Grimaud to perform in a pool

One concern for Hélène Grimaud on her upcoming performance in New York City is where to rest her feet when she isn’t using the foot pedals on the Steinway in Wade Thompson Drill Hall.

That’s because the stage at the Park Avenue Armory will be covered in water. The 55,000-square-foot performance hall, big enough for a recent performance with three orchestras, will be flooded with water on Tues., Dec. 9, then partially drained and re-flooded for more performances by Grimaud through Dec. 21.

The stage installation will remain viewable through Jan. 4. The idea for the flood followed a burst of inspiration from Scottish conceptual artist Douglas Gordon.

“Some of the best things begin that way, out of spontaneity, out of chemistry,” Grimaud told the New York Times (the article includes pictures of the water installation). Still, Gordon worried that Grimaud would scratch the entire idea in favor of a simpler performance; that’s why he keeps several backup plans in mind.

Pictures of the pool being filled with water – as well as pictures of the collaborating artists and the boots Grimaud plans to wear throughout the performance – have been posted to Twitter by event promoters, organizers, and the Park Avenue Armory itself.

Gordon, who won the Turner Prize – an esteemed award for visual artists under 50 – isn’t typically known for minimalism or traditional technique. But he hopes to satisfy Grimaud’s expectations in a truly collaborative effort.

“I am not going to be the backdrop for a piano player,” he told the New York Times, “and I would not want Hélène Grimaud to be playing the soundtrack for an idiot artist. It has to go further than that.”

Grimaud, for her part, seems open to the idea but apprehensive toward a reverence for water.

“Water is the element most necessary to life, the most precious resource for our planet, the most endangered and the one that poses the greatest risk in its potential for conflict,” she said. “There is a weight to this, and I hope Douglas’s intervention will capture it.”

On her upcoming tour, Grimaud will perform a water-inspired repertoire with works from nine composers: Berio, Takemitsu, Fauré, Ravel, Albéniz, Liszt, Janáček, Debussy, and Brahms. It’s a compilation that would fit well in a water-filled performance hall, particularly Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie.

“This selection is not meant to be a bibliographical juxtaposition of all pieces for piano ever to bear a title having to do with the theme of water,” she noted on her website. Instead, Grimaud is straying from the poetic and atmospheric focus on water, gravitating towards the natural and spiritual mood that it represents.

“Nature is the ultimate muse and an inextinguishable source of inspiration,” she says, “as well as a bridge to the spiritual world.”

A promotional video from her management company provides a brief preview for the tour, which began Nov. 11 in Switzerland:

Water Trailer from Hélène Grimaud on Vimeo.

You can purchase tickets now for Hélène Grimaud’s April 16 recital at Chenery Auditorium, part of The Gilmore’s Piano Masters series.