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Pianist Helene Grimaud: Climbing Her "Mount Everest"

Pianist Helene Grimaud

It was around 2008 when virtuoso pianist Helene Grimaud thought about adding the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 to her repertoire. Seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, she calls her love of Brahms "intimate." So intimate that she performs almost every work he composed for piano, solo or otherwise.  And her relationship with his first piano concerto runs very deep.

But the second had eluded Grimaud for years, calling it her "Mount Everest." She told a reporter recently, "I was thinking, well, with the relationship I have with this composer, the fact that I play nearly everything that he's written for the piano, not only solo pieces but chamber pieces as well, I cannot not play the second concerto. That was just unthinkable."  So, she decided to do it.  

Problem was, the idea came from her head, not her heart. And the more Grimaud worked at it, the more unfulfilled she became. But in 2011, something happened.  The work started, as Grimaud often describes it, knocking on the door from the inside.  That's when she knew it was now time to really begin the journey.


Her latest Deutsche Grammophon CD of the two Brahms concertos is the result. Grimaud says the CD's concept was carefully thought out.  The first concerto features the pianist with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Andris Nelsons recorded live in Munich's Herkulessaal.  And the second concerto, having been composed by Brahms in Vienna, was recorded live with the Vienna Philharmonic in Vienna's Musikverein, making this her first recording with the Vienna Philharmonic, again led by Nelsons.

Helene Grimaud speaks with Jill about tackling her "Mount Everest" and how she decides on her repertoire, and plays excerpts from the new CD.

Crossover airs Saturday morning at 11:30 am on WRTI-FM, with an encore the following Friday evening at 7 pm on HD-2 and the All-Classical web stream at wrti.org.

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