Hélène Grimaud

Sunday, November 6, 2022
2:30 PM | Bing Concert Hall


Hélène Grimaud, piano


VALENTIN SILVESTROV (b. 1937): Bagatelle: Allegretto, Op. 1 No. 1 (publ. 2005) 
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918): Arabesque No. 1, in E, L. 66 (c1890)
VALENTIN SILVESTROV (b. 1937): Bagatelle: Andantino, Op. 1 No. 2 (publ. 2005)   
ERIK SATIE (1866-1925): Gnossienne No. 4 (1891)
FRYDERYK CHOPIN (1810-49): Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72 No. 1 (c1829)
ERIK SATIE (1866-1925): Gnossienne No. 1 (1890)
ERIK SATIE (1866-1925): En y regardant à deux fois from Danses de travers (1897), from Pièces froides 
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918): La plus que lente, L. 121 (1910)
FRYDERYK CHOPIN (1810-49): Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4 (1833)
FRYDERYK CHOPIN (1810-49): Waltz in A Minor, Op. 34 No. 2 (c1834)
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918): Clair de lune from Suite bergamasque, L. 75 (c1890, rev. 1905)
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918): Rêverie, L. 76 (68) (c1890)
ERIK SATIE (1866-1925): Passer from Danses de travers (1897), from Pièces froides 




Kreisleriana, Op. 16 (1838)

1. Äußerst bewegt
2. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch
3. Sehr aufgeregt
4. Sehr langsam
5. Sehr lebhaft
6. Sehr langsam
7. Sehr rasch
8. Schnell und spielend




Season Sponsor: 


PROGRAM SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Please be considerate of others and turn off all phones, pagers, and watch alarms. Photography and recording of any kind are not permitted. Thank you.

HEALTH AND SAFETY: Masks are no longer required for indoor performances but are strongly recommended.


Program Notes

“Music rouses memory through non-rational means and each of the pieces here is evocative of distinct features inspiring such contemplation: transparent textures, nostalgic, melancholic moods, cyclical structures. The works are simple, or rather there is a simplicity to them; it is, in a sense, immaterial music. It serves to conjure atmospheres of fragile reflection, a mirage of what was—or what could have been. I think of the works as a sequence of crystalline miniatures capturing time.”
—Hélène Grimaud


Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, September 30, 1937
Bagatelle: Allegretto, Op. 1 No. 1 (publ. 2005) 
Bagatelle: Op. 1 No. 2 (publ. 2005)

Exiled since March 2022 in Berlin, a “refugee from bombs and missiles,“ Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov continues to fight for his country with blunt words and “quiet, cautious music.“ “Cherish this quiet, cherish this peace,” he says. His Majdan cycle of hymns, elegies, and prayers dates back to the initially peaceful 2013-14 Kyiv street protests which led to the Revolution of Dignity and the ousting of President Yanukovich. Recently, he has written more Elegies. Now 85 and a winner of the Shevchenko National Prize, his country’s highest award for an artist, Silvestrov has distilled a creative dialogue with composers from the Western musical past as diverse as Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Mahler, Wagner, and Glinka. “I do not write new music,” Silvestrov says. “My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists.” 

The bagatelle distils his thoughts to their most aphoristic and has become a favorite vehicle since the early years of the present century. Few are published, but most are grouped into cycles of between two to ten pieces, structured with other cycles into super-cycles of over 30 hours of music, every nuance painstakingly notated with the utmost precision. Silvestrov was drawn to the idea of the bagatelle even earlier as we will hear tonight. “I would even go so far and call the Bagatelles ‘symphonies for piano’, in the literal sense of the word ‘symphony’ = consonance. These pieces are ‘symphonies of moments,’ and ‘melodies of silence,’ consisting not only of music, but also of pauses, which are music as well,” he wrote recently. 


—Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed:

Born in St Germain-en-Laye, France, August 22, 1862; died in Paris, March 25, 1918
Arabesque No. 1, in E, L. 66 (c1890)
La plus que lente, L. 121 (1910)
Clair de lune from Suite bergamasque, L. 75 (c1890, rev. 1905)
Rêverie, L. 76 (68) (c1890)

“This was the age of the ‘wonderful arabesque,’” Debussy wrote, “the free play of sonorities whose curves, whether flowing in parallel or contrary motion, would result in an undreamed-of flowering.” The French composer was describing the polyphonic lines of Bach, though he could equally have been describing the curving, intertwining lines of the Art Nouveau style of the 1890s or the poetry of Baudelaire. His own early Arabesque No. 1 (c1890) reflects a similar artistic use of the curving shape and flowing style. 

The valse lente was in vogue in Parisian salons when Debussy wrote his own wry take on the style in 1910. La plus que lente explores the fine line between sentiment and sentimentality, having the last word on all other salon waltzes through parody. 

The Suite bergamasque, which contains the lovely Clair de Lune, draws inspiration from the poetry of Verlaine. The silvery, ineffable Clair de Lune is the third of four pieces in the suite and its title translates literally—but with only a suggestion of the poetry of the original—as "Moonlight."

The beautiful, dreamlike Rêverie is an early work, likely composed in Paris around 1890 shortly after Debussy had returned from two years in Rome. Its pensively modal melody and fluid accompaniment frame a chordal central section. 


—Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed:

Born in Honfleur, France, May 17, 1866; died in Paris, July 1, 1925
Gnossienne No. 4 (1891)
Gnossienne No. 1 (1890)
En y regardant à deux fois from Danses de travers (1897), from Pièces froides 
Passer from Danses de travers (1897), from Pièces froides 

Written without barlines, the stark directness of iconoclastic French composer Erik Satie’s six Gnossiennes reflect a quest for simplicity and, by extension, freedom of interpretation for the performer. Performing directions in the score of No. 1 include "Du bout de la pensée" (From the tip of the thought), "Questionnez" (Query, or think carefully), and "Postulez en vous même" (Wonder about yourself). They add an enigmatic quality and encourage the performer’s dialogue with the music. Satie gives his modal melodies exotic coloring, using decoration and appoggiaturas over an arpeggiated left-hand framework in No. 4, and a hauntingly repetitive chordal accompaniment in No. 1.

The three Danses de travers (Crooked Dances) from 1897 are similarly written in barless notation without key or time signatures. They also include such cryptic performing instructions as "En y regardant à deux fois" (Give it a good look), "Passer" (Move on), and "Du coin de la main" (With the corner of the hand). 


—Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed:

Born in Żelazowa Wola, nr Warsaw, Poland, March 1, 1810; died in Paris, France, October 17, 1849
Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72 No. 1 (c1829)
Mazurka in A minor, Op. 17 No. 4 (1833)
Waltz in A Minor, Op. 34 No. 2 (c1834)

The E minor Nocturne, (published six years after Chopin’s death, misleadingly as Op. 72 No. 1), is the earliest of his 20 Nocturnes. It dates from the late 1820s, while he was still a student at the Warsaw Conservatory. Its expressive right-hand writing carries the melody throughout and reflects the young Chopin’s love of the long, sustained, elaborately decorated vocal line found in Italian bel canto.

In his A minor Mazurka, Chopin draws personal melancholy and longing from the kujawiak, one of three regional dances that provided a starting point for his 60 mazurkas. He wrote this heartfelt, chromatically complex mazurka far away from his homeland, in Paris in 1833.  

Chopin’s Op. 34 No. 2 was published as one of three Grandes Valses Brillantes. Unlike its bookends, however, this A minor waltz tells a melancholy tale, growing incrementally into a brief, joyous central episode, only to recede gradually back to its dark A minor starting point. 


—Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed:

Born in Zwickau, Saxony, June 8, 1810; died in Endenich, nr Bonn, July 29, 1856
Kreisleriana, Op. 16 (1838)

"The best description of Schumann himself,” Brahms once said, “is to be found in some of the writings of Hoffmann – especially in the splendid Kreisler."  Johannes Kreisler is a larger-than-life Kapellmeister who appears several times in E.T.A. Hoffman’s published fiction.  Schumann calls him eccentric, wild and gifted, feeling a bond between the fictional Kreisler and the romantic composer that he himself embodied.  The first edition of Schumann's Kreisleriana, published October 1838, even depicts drawings of characters from Hoffmann's writings, as well as pictures of Robert and the young pianist he was soon to marry, Clara Wieck. 

Schumann's absorption with the individualistic Kreisler did not dampen his own creative spark.  He wrote Kreisleriana in the white heat of inspiration, in just four days in April 1838.  In its pages he wove constant references to the woman he loved.  "You and one of your ideas are the principal subject and I shall call them Kreisleriana and dedicate them to you,” he wrote. “You will smile so sweetly when you see yourself in them.”  Cryptic messages are encoded in Kreisleriana.  Thematic cross references underline the cycle of eight fantasy pieces and bring a powerful sense of unity to its music. 

At the same time, Kreisleriana has been seen as a musical depiction of Schumann’s impending insanity.  Turbulent, rhetorical pieces representing the Florestan side of Schumann's character (No. 1, the second Intermezzo of No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5) alternate with the more reflective, internalized, Eusebius side (No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6).  The music in these movements correspondingly alternates between a restless G-minor and a dreamier B-flat major.  The contrasts also occur within each piece, as in the way the serene chorale that ends the seventh piece in Kreisleriana seems to share little with the fiery, cascading sixteenths that precede it.  At other times, Schumann makes inner voices appear as if from nowhere, sometimes leaving them ‘hanging' with their dissonances unresolved.  The extraordinary crab-like harmonies that emerge from complex counterpoint immediately after the second Intermezzo of No. 2 give the effect of learned improvisation – and, perhaps, that trance-like state that both Schumann and Kreisler entered when immersed in their own world at the piano.  


—Program notes © 2022 Keith Horner. Comments welcomed:

About the Artists

Hélène Grimaud
Renaissance woman 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 and began her piano studies at the local conservatory with Jacqueline Courtin before going on to work with 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. That same year, renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris: this marked the launch of Grimaud’s musical career, characterised ever since by concerts with most of the world’s major orchestras and many celebrated conductors.

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 notable 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; this 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 a number of years she also found time to pursue a writing career, publishing three books that have appeared in various languages. Her first, Variations Sauvages, appeared in 2003. It was followed in 2005 by Leçons particulières, and in 2013 by Retour à Salem, both semi-autobiographical novels.

It is, however, through her thoughtful and tenderly expressive music-making that Hélène Grimaud most deeply touches the emotions of audiences. Fortunately, they have been able to enjoy her concerts worldwide, thanks to the extensive tours she undertakes as a soloist and recitalist. A committed chamber musician, she has also performed at the most prestigious festivals and cultural events with a wide range of musical collaborators, including Sol Gabetta, Rolando Villazón, Jan Vogler, Truls Mørk, Clemens Hagen, Gidon Kremer, Gil Shaham, and the Capuçon brothers. Her prodigious contribution to and impact on the world of classical music were recognised by the French government when she was admitted into the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France’s highest decoration) at the rank of Chevalier (Knight).

Hélène Grimaud has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2002. 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 Klassik Award.

Her early recordings include Credo and Reflection (both of which feature a number of thematically linked works); a Chopin and Rachmaninov Sonatas disc; a Bartók CD on which she plays the Third Piano Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Boulez; a Beethoven disc with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Vladimir Jurowski which was chosen as one of history’s greatest classical music albums in the iTunes “Classical Essentials” series; a selection of Bach’s solo and concerto works, in which she directed the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen from the piano; and a DVD release of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Claudio Abbado.

In 2010 Grimaud recorded the solo recital album Resonances, showcasing music by Mozart, Berg, Liszt and Bartók. This was followed in 2011 by a disc featuring her readings of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 19 and 23 as well as a collaboration with singer Mojca Erdmann in the same composer’s Ch’io mi scordi di te?. Her next release, Duo, recorded with cellist Sol Gabetta, won the 2013 Echo Klassik Award for “chamber recording of the year”, and her album of the two Brahms piano concertos, the First recorded with Andris Nelsons and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Second with Nelsons and the Vienna Philharmonic, appeared in September 2013.

This was followed by Water (January 2016), a live recording of performances from tears become… streams become…, the critically-acclaimed large-scale immersive installation at New York’s Park Avenue Armory created by Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon in collaboration with Grimaud. Water features works by nine composers: Berio, Takemitsu, Fauré, Ravel, Albéniz, Liszt, Janáček, Debussy, and Nitin Sawhney, who wrote seven short Water Transitions for the album as well as producing it. April 2017 then saw the release of Perspectives, a two-disc personal selection of highlights from her DG catalogue, including two “encores”—Brahms’s Waltz in A flat and Sgambati’s arrangement of Gluck’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits”—previously unreleased on CD/via streaming.

Grimaud’s next album, Memory, was released in September 2018. Exploring music’s ability to bring the past back to life, it comprises a selection of evanescent miniatures by Chopin, Debussy, Satie, and Valentin Silvestrov which, in the pianist’s own words, “conjure atmospheres of fragile reflection, a mirage of what was—or what could have been”.

For her most recent recording, The Messenger, Grimaud created an intriguing dialogue between Silvestrov and Mozart. “I was always interested in couplings that were not predictable,” she explained, “because I feel as if certain pieces can shed a special light on to one another.” Together with the Camerata Salzburg, she recorded Mozart’s Piano Concerto K466 and Silvestrov’s Two Dialogues with Postscript and The Messenger1996, of which she also created a solo version. Mozart’s Fantasias K397 and K475 complete the programme. The Messenger was released in October 2020.

Hélène Grimaud began the 2022-23 season with a recital of her Memory recording in Santa Fe’s Lensic Performaing Arts Center. Her forthcoming plans include performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor with the Dallas Symphony Orchesta and Fabio Luisi (October), Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Otto Tausk (November), and St Louis Symphony Orchestra and Stephane Deneve (January); Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Louis Langree (October); finishing the year with a recital at Carnegie Hall (December). The new year starts with her European tour with Camerata Salzburg in Ludwigshafen, Salzburg, and Turin (February). Followed by recitals in Vienna, Luxembourg, Munich, Berlin, and London (March-May) to name a few.

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, literary and artistic interests.



Upcoming Events

Meta4 Quartet
Sat, Nov 12 at 7:30 PM | The Studio

Buy Tickets



Randall Goosby
Mon, Nov 30 at 7:30 PM | Bing Concert Hall

Buy Tickets