Music review: Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Queen’s Hall

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Reflections and resonances ricocheted back and forth across French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard’s expertly conceived, heavily perfumed Queen’s Hall recital.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Queen’s Hall (*****)

It was astonishing, for a start, just how much the sumptuous, exploratory harmonies, artifical resonances and gong-like bass tollings of Nikolay Obukhov – a barely known Russian composer, writing in Paris after the Revolution – prefigured the spiritual searchings of Messiaen, Aimard’s mentor, three of whose bird portraits made a gently sparkling conclusion to the concert.

Running together the first half’s Obhukov, Scriabin and Debussy (six of his scintillating Études) might have left some listeners scratching their heads as to where one finished and the next started.

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But that was kind of the point – this was a fluid, interconnected array of music in which Aimard threw up illuminating parallels and contrasts.

No such confusion after theinterval, however, when the pianist contrasted three Chopin nocturnes (perhaps a touch deliberate in performance) with visionary nature portraits from Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux.

Bringing everything together was Aimard’s extraordinary 1899 Bechstein piano, with a touch of fortepiano jangle but a remarkable luminosity to its sound – a quality richly exploited in Aimard’s kaleidoscopic encore, Enescu’s Carillon Nocturne. It was a remarkable recital of passion and colour.