Pierre-Laurent Aimard II

Piano evening: Schönberg / Ives

Man sits on a piano stool facing the viewer in front of a white background

Pierre-Laurent Aimard © Marco Borggreve

Charles Ives’s “Concord Sonata” is one of the 20th century’s most monumental piano sonatas – a flood of sound that is ludicrously demanding, with three systems of notation instead of the usual two. A challenge – even for an internationally accalimed pianist like Pierre-Laurent Aimard. The sonata makes reference to the American transcendentalist movement, for which the town of Concord was akin to a Weimar of the USA: it was here, in the middle of the 19th century, that writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne all lived. A concentration of talent that is reminiscent of Vienna in the early days of new music, which was central to the evening’s other featured composer: Arnold Schönberg.

19:10, Exhibition Foyer
Work introduction

When Pierre-Laurent Aimard was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 2017, the “Nobel Prize of music”, he was praised as a “pivotal figure in the international musical life of our time” – as a pianist who “makes light and colours, everything that he plays, clear and vivid.” To mark the double jubilee of Ives and Schönberg, whose 150th anniversaries the musical world celebrates this year, Aimard will perform Schönberg’s complete works for solo piano: starting with the atonal Three Piano Pieces op. 11, that are still based on a piano sound that does not go beyond the boundaries set by Schumann and Brahms, and culminating with the strictly dodecaphonic works op. 25 and 33. The programme after the interval consists of probably the most monumental piano sonata of the 20th century: Charles Ives’s “Concord Sonata”, whose world premiere in 1939 helped to establish the composer who until that point was still largely unknown. As Ives explained in his commentary “Essay Before a Sonata”, the intellectual world of this piece, which is ludicrously demanding in technical terms and whose compelling flood of sound requires three systems of notation rather than two, is set in the community of American transcendalism that reached its zenith in the small New England town of Concord, Massachusetts between 1840 and 1860. Schönberg knew and admired the music of his American colleague: “In this country,” he acknowledged in 1947, “there is an important man – a composer. […] He is not obliged to accept praise or censure. His name is Ives.”


Arnold Schönberg (1874 – 1951)
Three piano pieces op. 11 (1909/10)
Six little piano pieces op. 19 (1911)
Five piano pieces op. 23 (1920/23)
Piano pieces op. 33a/33b (1929/31)
Suite for piano op. 25 (1921 – 1923)

Charles Ives (1874 – 1954)
Piano Sonata No. 2, Concord, Mass.
Emerson – Hawthorne – The Alcotts – Thoreau


Pierre-Laurent Aimard piano

An event by Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin