Hélène Grimaud explores the power and beauty of water in an evocative, experimental and deeply personal new Deutsche Grammophon recording – to be released January 29, 2016
Hélène Grimaud’s latest album for Deutsche Grammophon, produced by Nitin Sawhney, was inspired by her abiding fascination with Nature’s most precious gift. Water is set for worldwide release on January 29, 2016 and conveys imaginative responses to everything from mighty oceans and great lakes to raindrops and snowflakes as well as inviting listeners to contemplate the mounting threats to the safety, security and supply of this essential resource.
“What inspired the idea to record this album is really the fascination that so many composers of the 19th and 20th centuries seem to have had with the element of water,” Grimaud states. Not only did this sow the seed for a recording, it also grew into a collaboration between the pianist and Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon. Their site-specific installation tears become… streams become… was created for the Wade Thompson Drill Hall at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in December 2014. Described by the New York Times as a “compelling, boldly original work”, the project blended elements of art, music and architecture, with Grimaud’s water-themed programme located at its core. Gordon transformed the cavernous Drill Hall by slowly flooding its vast floor to create the impression of what he described as an endless “field of water,” entirely surrounding the grand piano at which Grimaud performed.
The album features works by nine composers: it opens with Berio’s Wasserklavier and includes Takemitsu’s Rain Tree Sketch II, Fauré’s Barcarolle No.5, Ravel’s Jeux d’eau, “Almería” from Albéniz’s Iberia, Liszt’s Les Jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este and the first movement of Janáček’s In the Mists, before closing with Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie. These myriad reflections on the qualities of water were recorded live at the Armory during the installation and then connected and woven into the album narrative by seven “Transitions” that were newly composed, recorded and produced by Sawhney. Grimaud was delighted to work with the award-winning composer, DJ and multi-instrumentalist, praising his ability to highlight “the universal human dependence on our planet’s most precious resource” and weave “contrasting poetic and philosophical perspectives into a single, cogent musical ecosystem.”
Each piece on this new album unfolds as part of an acoustic “stream”, carefully structured in its blend of classical and contemporary compositions, yet experimental in its overall aesthetic.
Hélène Grimaud is not only one of the world’s most celebrated pianists, but also a tireless champion of ecological causes, having founded the Wolf Conservation Center, which raises awareness of the importance and relationship of these top predators to our ecosystem. With Water, the insightful Grimaud has united her twin passions for music and the environment in unique fashion.
STUNNING INTERNATIONAL LAUNCH FOR HÉLÈNE GRIMAUD’S NEW ALBUM
Exclusive private performance at Louis Vuitton Foundation
Paris, 27 January 2016. Hélène Grimaud’s hotly anticipated new release, Water, was launched in spectacular fashion on Monday with an exclusive private performance at the Frank Gehry-designed Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. A‑list guests from top national and international media and music outlets thronged to the iconic cultural centre to hear the pianist perform music that she recorded in another architectural landmark, the Wade Thompson Drill Hall at New York’s Park Avenue Armory.
Against the extraordinary backdrop of the Louis Vuitton Foundation building and its beautiful staircase cascade, Hélène Grimaud gave a delicate and emotional performance that took the breath away. It was further enhanced by a series of specially-designed and subtly-lit aquatic projections that complemented the “Transitions” composed by Nitin Sawhney to link together the individual musical reflections on the qualities of water.
Before the performance, the pianist had talked about the genesis of her groundbreaking new album in an onstage discussion, revealing its aesthetic as well as its political and ecological messages. She was joined by Dr Clemens Trautmann, President of Deutsche Grammophon, who said: “No one could more evocatively capture the essence of this repertoire than Hélène – from the faintest trickle of a stream to the full roar of the ocean. The concept of Water, with its juxtaposition of classical piano works and electronic music, is experimental and ambitious – and at the same time deeply emotional and authentic. Thus, the album encompasses all of the qualities Deutsche Grammophon stands for: tradition, excellence and innovation. And it successfully raises awareness of an important social and ecological cause.”
Afterwards, as this memorable evening came to a close, the artist was presented with a special disc to celebrate one million recordings sold during her career so far with Deutsche Grammophon.
The glamorous international showcase event highlighted a release that captures Grimaud’s passion for both music and the environment. While celebrating musical repertoire that has been inspired by water, from the delicately flowing to the breathtakingly magisterial, she also seeks to draw attention to the mounting threats to a natural resource on which mankind relies for survival.
Olivier Nusse, Managing Director Decca Records France, said: “We are privileged tonight to witness the deeply committed Hélène Grimaud, whose peerless playing and ardent love of nature combine here to create a unique recording.”
Featuring works by nine composers, from Ravel’s playful Jeux d’eau to Debussy’s hauntingly powerful La cathédrale engloutie, the album was produced by barrier-breaking musician Nitin Sawhney, whose own seven “Transitions” form such a captivating and intrinsic part of the recording.
Sawhney is one of two great artists to have been inspired by Grimaud’s aquatic vision. In New York, her programme became the heart of tears become… streams become…, a site-specific installation designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon, who flooded the vast floor of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall to create a seemingly endless field of water. The project ran for ten nights in December 2014, blending elements of art, music and architecture, and creating an eminently memorable atmosphere which has now been captured on disc.
Water will be released internationally on 29 January 2016.