The Gilmore

Pre-Concert Talk, 7:00 PM

“A display of finger elasticity and strength that would have made the composer’s jaw drop…”
San Jose Mercury News

French pianist Hélène Grimaud was born in 1969 in Aix-en-Provence, where she began her piano studies. She was accepted into the Conservatoire de Paris at age 13, and in 1987, made her recital debut in Tokyo. That same year, Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris, marking the launch of Grimaud’s musical career—one highlighted by concerts with most of the world’s major orchestras and many celebrated conductors. She has been under exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon since 2002.

In what will be Grimaud’s first appearance in West Michigan, she has designed a unique program of short pieces inspired by water that features works by Berio, Takemitsu, Liszt, Ravel, Albeniz, Janacek, Fauré, and Debussy. Following intermission, Grimaud will perform Brahms’ Sonata No. 2.

Prior to the concert, a talk will be given at 7 PM in the Lobby Reception Room of Chenery Auditorium by Dan Jacobson, professor of music history and theory at Western Michigan University. The talk will be 45 minutes long with one break for late seating. Seating is limited.

Grimaud Program Notes

Call 269.387.2300 or 800.228.9858. Kalamazoo City Ticketing Center is located at the Miller Auditorium Box Office on the campus of Western Michigan University at 2200 Auditorium Drive in Kalamazoo. See map.


BERIO Wasserklavier
TAKEMITSU Rain Tree Sketch II: in Memoriam Olivier Messiaen
FAURÉ Barcarolle No. 5 in F-sharp minor, Op. 66
RAVEL Jeux d’eaux
ALBENIZ Almeria from Iberia
LISZT Les Jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este from Années de Pèlerinage, Book III
JANÁČEK Andante from In the Mists
DEBUSSY La cathédrale engloutie from Préludes, Book I
BRAHMS Sonata No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 2

Hélène Grimaud

Hélène Grimaud

She could be called a Renaissance woman for our times. Hélène Grimaud is not just a deeply passionate and committed musical artist whose pianistic accomplishments play a central role in her life. She is a woman with multiple talents that extend far beyond the instrument she plays with such poetic expression and peerless technical control. The French artist has established herself as a committed wildlife conservationist, a compassionate human rights activist and as a writer.

Grimaud was born in 1969 in Aix-en-Provence where she began her piano studies at the conservatory with Jacqueline Courtin and subsequently under Pierre Barbizet in Marseille. She was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire at just 13 and won first prize in piano performance a mere three years later. She continued to study with György Sándor and Leon Fleisher until, in 1987, she gave her well-received debut recital in Tokyo. The same year the renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris.

This marked the launch of Grimaud’s musical career; one highlighted by concerts with most of the world’s major orchestras and many celebrated conductors. Her recordings have been critically acclaimed and awarded numerous accolades, among them the Cannes Classical Recording of the Year, Choc du Monde de la musique, Diapason d’or, Grand Prix du disque, Record Academy Prize (Tokyo), Midem Classic Award and the Echo Award.

Between her debut in 1995 with the Berliner Philharmoniker under Claudio Abbado and her first performance with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur in 1999 – just two of many acclaimed musical milestones – Grimaud made a wholly different kind of debut: in upper New York State she established the Wolf Conservation Center.

Her love for the endangered species was sparked by a chance encounter with a wolf in northern Florida which led to her determination to open an environmental education centre. “To be involved in direct conservation and being able to put animals back where they belong,” she says, “there’s just nothing more fulfilling.”

But Grimaud’s engagement doesn’t end there: she is also a member of the organisation Musicians for Human Rights, a worldwide network of musicians and people working in the field of music to promote a culture of human rights and social change.

For most people, establishing and running an environmental organisation or having a flourishing career as a musician would be accomplishment enough. Yet, remarkably, Hélène Grimaud has also found time to pursue writing. Her first book, Variations Sauvages, was published in French in 2003 and subsequently translated into English, Japanese, Dutch and German. Her second book, Leçons particulières, which is part novel and part autobiography, followed in 2005. Most recently she published Retour à Salem, also a semi-autobiographical novel, which was released in French in October 2013.

Despite her divided dedication to these multiple passions, it is through Grimaud’s thoughtful and tenderly expressive music-making that she most deeply touches the emotions of audiences. Fortunately, they have been able to enjoy her concerts due to her extensive touring programme with major orchestras around the world. Her 2014 calendar includes performances with Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Jaap van Zweden, the Philharmonia and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/Andris Nelsons, San Francisco Symphony/Lionel Bringuier, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Jirí Belohlávek, Los Angeles Philharmonic/Gustavo Dudamel, Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Yannick Nézet-Séguin. In September, Hélène will begin her recital tour with a programme inspired by Water. The year ends with a collaborative project at The Park Avenue Armory in New York with the visual artist Douglas Gordon: tears become…streams become….

In September 2013, Deutsche Grammophon released her album of the two Brahms piano concertos; the first concerto with Andris Nelsons conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the second recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic. When she took the Brahms on tour to Southeast Asia, The Straits Times of Singapore said: “Her playing was distinguished by superb timing and consistency of touch, and seamless interplay between piano and orchestra.”

Grimaud is also an ardent and committed chamber musician who performs frequently at the most prestigious festivals and cultural events with a wide range of musical collaborators that has included Sol Gabetta, Thomas Quasthoff, Rolando Villazón, Jan Vogler, Truls Mørk, Clemens Hagen and the Capuçon brothers.

An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2002, her album prior to the Brahms concertos was Duo, a collaboration with cellist Sol Gabetta, which won the 2013 ECHO Award for “chamber recording of the year”. The disc was released in October 2012 and that autumn the pair gave a series of concerts in Germany and France, performing the cello sonatas by Schumann, Brahms, Shostakovich and Debussy which are featured on the disc. The album’s repertoire originated as an inspired recreation of a concert they gave at the 2011 Gstaad Festival and which the Berner Zeitung described at the time as “breathtaking” while BBC Music Magazine commented that “. . . in the grand first movement [of Brahms’ Cello Sonata No. 1] Hélène Grimaud produces a context of almost orchestral depth and spaciousness into which Gabetta projects her eloquently refined lines.”

Previous releases include her Mozart Piano Concertos No. 19 and No. 23, a disc released in 2011, which also featured a collaboration with singer Mojca Erdmann on a recording of Mozart’s Ch’io mi scordi di te?. Grimaud’s 2010 release, the solo recital album Resonances, featured music by Mozart, Berg, Liszt and Bartók. Other DG recordings by Grimaud include Bach’s solo and concerto works in which she directed the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from the piano bench, and a Beethoven disc with Staatskapelle Dresden and Vladimir Jurowski, Reflection and Credo (both of which feature a number of works linked thematically), a Chopin and Rachmaninov Sonatas disc, a Bartók CD with Grimaud playing the Third Piano Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra under Pierre Boulez and a DVD release of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra under the direction of Claudio Abbado.

Hélène Grimaud is undoubtedly a multi-faceted artist. Her deep dedication to her musical career, both in performances and recordings, is reflected and reciprocally amplified by the scope and depth of her environmental and literary pursuits.

  • Julia

    Beautiful concert. Does anybody know what the three encore pieces were?

  • The Gilmore

    We’re happy you enjoyed the concert and we will try to provide specific information about the encores later today. In general, they were a Debussy prelude, a Rachmaninoff Etude-tableau and one of Brahms’ late pieces.

  • Adam Main

    Outstanding! I was excited to learn Hélène was coming but the performance itself dwarfed my anticipation. I hope she records that program because it was far too potent to assimilate in real time.

    The Gilmore continues to amaze.

    I am filled with beauty and gratitude.

    Thank You.

  • F.Claus Globig

    The sonata by Brahms was sublime! And the venue was perfect as usual for such a concert.

  • Hanslick

    She’s a brilliant pianist, but I kept waiting for a tune somewhere, something Mendelssohnian or Chopinesque or even Beethovenian. There was none. And it’s so snooty not to announce the encores.

  • Elizabeth Ann Hosnedl

    Just a thought..since I don’t have e-mail at home or a fancy phone and could not attend the pre-concert lecture, I had no idea what she was doing when she played on and on! Also, since most of the music was new to me, i wanted to note on the program what i thought of each piece..couldn’t do that! An announcement would have been appreciated.

  • The Gilmore

    Thank you for your suggestion. We will make a note to improve our communication next time.

  • The Gilmore

    Ms. Grimaud’s encore pieces last evening were the following:

    Debussy—Étude pour les arpèges composés

    Rachmaninov—Étude Tableau, Op. 33, No. 3

    Brahms—Fantasie, Op. 116, No. 1

    • Julia

      Thanks! I appreciate the specifics.

  • Tami

    I felt her performance was difficult to enjoy to its fullest due to the continuous coughing in the audience.

  • Carol W.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the concert. Although I was not aware that she would be playing the first part without break ( I didn’t attend the 7p.m. talk, unfortunately), I thought it worked very well. The listener could discern the flowing nature of the music, “wateriness”, if you will. I have been attending concerts at Chenery for years, decades, and it has been a very long time since anyone played 3 encores. I LOVE the venue. One question: why 2 different pianos?