Review: Dance Music, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Aldeburgh Festival, Snape Maltings, 16 June

Pierre-Laurent Aimard performing at The Aldeburgh Festival. Photo: rob brimson

Pierre-Laurent Aimard performing at The Aldeburgh Festival. Photo: rob brimson - Credit: Archant

In a typically well-considered and constructed recital, the former festival director Pierre-Laurent Aimard built an evening around dance pieces from five composers covering two centuries – Bach, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin and Bartok. Taking account of the symmetry of the human body and the pairing of people in many dances, the first half with composers in chronological order was followed by a second half following the same pattern. It proved both illuminating and satisfying.

Bach was represented by four dances common to his second and fifth French suites – Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue, the latter from the fifth suite providing one of the technical highlight of the evening with a superbly controlled and dynamic display of passage work from Aimard. Most of Schubert’s dances were waltzes and their rustic relative, landlers. They are generally short but collectively encompass a range of emotions – from unalloyed pleasure and exuberant vigour to wistful and unsettling reflection.

In contrast to Schubert, Schumann wrote no sets of dances but the waltz plays an important part in some of his piano competitions, notably Carnaval. Estrella made a particular impression with its dragging syncopation and the second half Valse noble and Valse allemande were models of polished elegance.

Chopin composed almost exclusively for the piano and the mazurka figures prominently in his oeuvre. Aimard chose examples from opp 24, 59 & 67 imbuing them with a strong flavour of the folk music of the composer’s native Poland. Folk music was a major interest of the Hungarian Bela Bartok and his often percussive and rhythmically driven works make good performance pieces. The Ostinato from Mikrokosmos was performed with energetic elan and brought the recital to an exhilarating conclusion.

Aimard again demonstrated his unerring ability to make musical points and connections without the use of words, instead using intelligent programme construction and pianism of the highest order.


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Gareth Jones

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