Pierre-Laurent Aimard Photo: Marco Borggreve

Author: Becca Vaclavik

Beethoven, the Avant-gardist

Though he is now known as one of the most remarkable classical composers of all time, audiences often forget—or perhaps have never been taught—that Ludwig van Beethoven was quite the subversive artist in his day.

“In some ways, we have killed Beethoven, making him too conventional and too monumental,” says pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. “We’ve changed the way we see Beethoven.”

In reality? “He always wanted to compose music that looked towards the future.”

On Nov. 19, Aimard will illustrate this point when he performs “Beethoven, the Avant-gardist” in Macky Auditorium as part of the CU Presents Artist Series. The evening’s program will juxtapose two of Beethoven’s sonatas against several avant-garde compositions from other artists. In doing so, Aimard hopes to bring to light some surprisingly similar themes and experiments across the works.

Aimard, himself a world-renowned talent, is certainly well-equipped to give the lesson. Hailed as “a brilliant musician and an extraordinary visionary” by the Wall Street Journal, Aimard is widely recognized for his unparalleled, powerful technique. Speaking on a past performance, the Chicago Tribune wrote: “Aimard’s prodigious technique allows you to hear not the work behind the work of art but its poetry… His performance had extraordinary power and clarity.”

A fitting tribute, then, from one visionary to another. The performance promises to be a unique and personal take on Beethoven’s legacy, which Aimard intentionally developed on the cusp of the composer’s 250th birth year.

“Beethoven was somebody who was revolutionary and quite shocking in his time—we forget that part of his work, which was essential! But these compositions destabilized the music world. He used the language of his era, but he used it in a new and different way.”

See Pierre-Laurent Aimard performing “Beethoven the Avant-gardist” on the piano Nov. 19 in Macky Auditorium. Tickets start at $20.

On the program:

(Updated Oct. 30, 2019)

Messiaen: VI. L’alouette-lulu from Catalogue d’oiseaux
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Op. 27 No. 2 (“Moonlight”)
Messiaen: V. La chouette hulotte from Catalogue d’oiseaux
Sweelinck: Sweelinck: Fantasia cromatica, SwWV 258
Benjamin: Shadowlines
Beethoven: Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major, Op. 101