Breathtaking pianism: Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich at St John’s Smith

Brahms and Messiaen do not immediately strike one as natural concert programme companions: Brahms teems with polyphony and darkness while Messiaen is about light, timbre, vertical chords, vibrant colour – indeed Messiaen hated Brahms, declaring that “it’s always raining” in Brahms’ music.

But unlikely or daring juxtapositions can create interesting and unexpected contrasts and connections, as one work shines a new light on another, enriching both listener and performer’s experience – and this was certainly my take on this remarkable concert by Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich at St John’s Smith Square which combined Brahms’ Sonata in F minor, Op 34b with Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen.

If there are connections to be made between the music that made up this large-scale programme it is that both works are mighty musical edifices, two great mountains which transcend mere notes on the page and which demonstrate each composer’s wish to remain in long moments of emotional distress, relaxation or ecstasy. Both works also display a high level of perfectionism in their structures and organisation, replete with many details, motifs and musical pathways which could easily become blurred in a lesser performance.

Read my full review here


(picture credit Neda Navaee)



  1. Dear Frances

    This is a breathtaking review. So impressed by how you select words and even tastes though I never tasted Sachertorte, whatever that is it must be creamy and full of dark chocolate. I could picture the music and longed to have been there.

    Bit fired with enthusiasm and hope aside from all the horrors facing the planet after seeing Mosen Makhmalbaf’s early film, banned in Iran for years Nights of Zandaneh-Rood at the ICA, with the most fiery Q&A yet, full of political dissonances from the 80% Persian audience, maybe some were even spies and met Mosen Makhmalbaf after, as you try to do always. There’s a repeat screening tonight at 8:30 as there was so much demand. Something you can’t do with live performance so easily. Highly recommended.

    And sorry we never got to the pub in time to say how much we enjoyed the Samba duet – we were wanting to get up and dance, though I imagine Samba footwork is exacting.

    All the best for the next time



    Sent from my iPhone


    • Hi Anna – thank you so much for your warm comments. It helps that I was writing about music which I adore (Messiaen) but there’s no doubting PL Aimard’s skill and imagination in this repertoire (he started studying with Messiaen at the age of 12). If my review made you long to be there, I have done a good job! By the way, PL Aimard is curating a Ligeti festival at Southbank Centre this year which should be wonderful.

      We enjoyed playing the Lady of Brazil 4-hand samba. I might play something more serious at the next meetup! Hope to see you again soon

      Frances x

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