The 2011-2012 season of Masterseries at the Lobero by the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) will conclude with a recital by the awesome French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard at 8 p.m. Monday in Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre.
With his long associations with Pierre Boulez and Györgi Ligetti, Aimard’s credentials as a modernist are unshakable. But the same is true for his reputation as a flawless and passionate interpreter of the classics of every era of the piano repertory, from 1750 until now.
The first half of Aimard’s program begins with seven selections from Games (Játékok) by the Hungarian composer György Kurtág (born 1926), followed by eight pieces from Bunte Blätter (Colored Leaves), Opus 99 by Robert Schumann (1810-1856), then Kurtág’s four-part work Splinters (Szálkák), Opus 6d, and concludes with Unstern — Sinistre and Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este by Franz Liszt (1811-1886). The second half of the program, after the intermission, will be devoted entirely to Book II of the Préludes by Claude Debussy (1862-1918).
When a major artist like Aimard commits so much of his recital program to the works of a composer whose name and works are likely to be completely unknown to most of his audience, it is bound to convince us, in advance of that composer’s importance. Kurtág is emphatically Hungarian, although he was born in Romania — which, thanks to the somewhat wacky distribution of war guilt following World War I, has a huge Magyar minority.
Kurtág seems to have suffered a typical 20th-century career interruption, and more than once. In the first place, his youth was set against the backdrop of the horrors of World War II, and then his education was accomplished during the Soviet occupation and domination of Hungary in the late 1940s. When the Hungarians tried, and failed tragically, to throw off the Soviet yoke in 1956, the composer left his homeland for Paris, where he studied with Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud.
He also suffered from a severe depression, and confessed that “I realized to the point of despair that nothing I had believed to constitute the world was true ...” He went into therapy, reviving and stimularing his creative impulses, also discovering and being profoundly inspired by the works of Anton Webern and the plays of Samuel Beckett. As you might suspect, the combined impact of psychotherapy, Webern and Beckett, set the tone, the parameters, of his compositions for the next half-century. He went back to Budapest and set his odometer to zero, calling his String Quartet “Opus 1.”
For tickets to Pierre-Laurent Aimard, call the Lobero Theatre Box Office at 805.963.0761 or visit in person at 33 E. Canon Perdido. Click here to order tickets online.