San Francisco Performances (SFP) programming for the month of March will begin with the return of French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Aimard made his San Francisco recital debut with SFP at the end of March of 2012 in Herbst Theatre. He will be the second pianist to be presented in the 2017–2018 Piano Series, and his fans have been waiting a little less than six years for this event.
Aimard tends to undertake ambitious projects in the programs he prepares. Programming for his debut recital focused on expressiveness through brevity, and the first half of his program consisted of 22 very short pieces played without interruption. There was particularly attention to the Hungarian miniaturist György Kurtág with the four pieces in his Szálkák (splinters) and seven selections from Játékok (games), all delivered with an intense commitment to make every individual instant count for its full value.
For his return recital, Aimard will push the pendulum in the opposite direction. The second half of the program will be devoted entirely to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 106 (“Hammerklavier”) sonata in B-flat major, which includes what may be the composer’s longest Adagio movement (lasting as long as many of the complete sonatas written in the eighteenth century, if not longer), as well a particularly ambitious approach to fugue at a time when most listeners were dismissing fugue as too old-fashioned. The major work in the first half will visit another Hungarian composer with a penchant for games. Musica ricercata (researched music) is a cycle of eleven pieces by György Ligeti, whose first piece is a study in rhythm using only a single pitch class, adding a second one only at the very end of the piece. This is followed by a piece with only two pitch classes, allowing a third at the end, continuing this process of adding pitch classes one-by-one as the cycle progresses. Aimard brings prodigious understanding of Ligeti to this collection and has created interactive scores for three of the pieces in this collection as contributions to the Explore the Score Web site maintained by Klavier-Festival Ruhr with support from Deutsche Bank. The Ligeti cycle will be preceded by “Le Courlis cendré” (the Eurasian curlew), the last of the thirteen solo piano compositions that Olivier Messiaen collected in his Catalogue d’oiseaux (catalog of birds).
Composer György Ligeti with pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard (from the Explore the Score Web site)
This concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 2. The venue will again be Herbst Theatre (thoroughly renovated since Aimard’s last appearance). The entrance to Herbst is the main entrance to the Veterans Building at 401 Van Ness Avenue, located on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. The venue is excellent for public transportation, since that corner has Muni bus stops for both north-south and east-west travel. Ticket prices are $70 for premium seating in the Orchestra and the front and center of the Dress Circle, $55 for the Side Boxes, the center rear of the Dress Circle, and the remainder of the Orchestra, and $40 for the remainder of the Dress Circle and the Balcony. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through a City Box Office event page. Tickets can also be purchased at the door as available, including student rush tickets at a 50% discount.