Symphony Center, Orchestra Hall; Sun 13
Aimard is constitutionally unable to present a normal recital program. Even when he’s on his best, most audience-friendly behavior, he’ll throw in something to catch people off-guard, whether it’s a selection of György Kurtág’s Jatékok (Games) mocking the gentle Debussy that came before them or an unorthodox tour of music history, such as he’s given in New York this year. Then there’s this Mother’s Day program, for two pianos and percussion, which dispenses with norms entirely by focusing on the primacy of percussive rhythm.
With his former student, pianist Tamara Stefanovich, Aimard takes another stab at the quirky Jatékok, along with Ligeti’s Three Pieces for Two Pianos. Stefanovich studied with Aimard in Cologne, where he maintains a piano studio. The first movement of the Ligeti, “Monument,” is essentially two loud chords played one at a time that gradually grow closer together; the second is Ligeti’s reflection on his rhythmic ideas tossed in with those of American minimalists Terry Riley and Steve Reich.
He also brings some of the rarely heard music of Conlon Nancarrow, an American who composed a great deal of rhythmically complicated music for player piano. (He thought humans couldn’t play the rhythms he devised.) When two pianists come together, the music becomes possible, and Aimard and Stefanovich play two of his Studies for Player Piano. The closest thing to a repertoire standard is Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be a predictable occasion, after all.—Marc Geelhoed