Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
Hélène Grimaud and Camerata Salzburg: The Messenger (Deutsche Grammophon)
It has been about 10 years since Hélène Grimaud has recorded any Mozart. Her latest release is a concept album that generates a fascinating dialogue between Mozart and the Ukrainian-born contemporary composer Valentin Silvestrov. The Messenger, by Silvestrov is the title track of this recording, and it echoes the music of Mozart, creating a connection between the present and the world that existed before.
"I thought it was interesting to have them facing each other and more importantly, these three elements that I feel they share very strongly: clarity of textures, form and this purity. You know, Silvestrov says something about how music has been so transparent. You have to be able to see all the way through to the bottom, and that appears also in Mozart's music: there's transparency and also this quality of impermanence of something that is there. But as soon as you try to seize it, it vanishes. It's not really for this world."
The Messenger is the title of the recording, and Silvestrov's piece, but choosing this at the title, it makes me wonder what your intention was. Who is the messenger?
"It's just a bridge to the spiritual. He wrote it in memory of his deceased wife. You can really feel this homage and simple desire to connect with her in the world beyond."
Silvestrov's The Messenger is a response to Mozart and also echoes the music of the composer. Why is that so central to his art as a composer?
"He's almost recomposing some of this music. And what is really interesting is that he's a master of illusion in that sense, because you are convinced that you heard these pieces before and some of them you actually haven't. They just sound like you could have. So, for example, in "The Messenger," you think you're listening to some reminiscence of some Mozart piece, but that isn't even the case."
Why did you select only works in minor keys by Mozart for this recording?
"Because they were my favorites. I feel that they're the most essential. I've always had a predilection for dramatic pieces anyway, and in the case of Mozart, he didn't write many pieces in minor tonality. I feel that they have a very special significance. They're usually very personal pieces for him. I've always, always loved that notion of, um this sense of an appointment with fate."
Do you have a section within the Piano Concerto in D Minor that is a particular favorite of yours, a passage that you always look forward to playing?
"Oh, yes. Well, there is the opening in the first movement. I mean, first of all, I wish I could play that opening with the orchestra. Um, that's the only frustration. And then that first sentence of the piano comes in and it's just arrestingly gorgeous and so endlessly sad, but hopeful at the same time. You know I always love those reconciliations of opposites in music."
I watched your video of the finale to the "Piano Concerto in D Minor" and it looked like you were saying something, you kind of mouthing words or responding in some way. Are you talking to the composer or having some kind of a physical reaction to the music?
"No, no. I think I just can't help myself. I'm not even aware of the fact that I do it. It looks a little weird for sure when you see it after the fact. I suppose it's like people have to move their hands in order to talk, and if you were to tie their hands behind their backs they probably couldn't even utter a word. I mean, something like that. I'm not even sure what I'm doing or what I'm saying. But I hope I'm saying what needs to be said through the music."
To hear the rest of my conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
Correction: Hélène Grimaud's was previously misspelled. It's been corrected.