Hélène Grimaud is known for her love of wolves and nature. Now she has brought that passion to her recordings as well.
Pianist Hélène Grimaud’s new album is all wet. That’s not a judgment, it’s a simple description. The album is called Water, and Grimaud says the idea for it bubbled up from the frequency of piano music depicting exactly that.
“The beauty of that repertoire, and how much of it there is, it made the choice [of works] very, very difficult. But I decided to try and stay with pieces which were less narrative and more abstract, more stylized,” she said.
The recording — which includes well-known works by Liszt, Ravel and Debussy, as well as lesser-known pieces by Berio, Takemitsu and Janacek — is the product of Grimaud’s collaboration with two other artists. With the first, Turner Prize-winning Scottish artist Douglas Gordon, she performed a series of unconventional recitals at New York’s Park Avenue Armory in December 2014. Her playing was one element of an art installation called tears become…streams become… . At each performance, water was pumped into an enormous pool erected in the Armory’s cavernous drill hall prior to Grimaud’s entrance.
“People were already sitting there while the water was filling the hall, and it created something totally mesmerizing, where you had these puddles forming on that dark floor — it looked like the floor was oozing some, you know, black blood, glistening — and then the puddles would converge and merge, and it was really hypnotic,” Grimaud said.
Two grand pianos stood in the center of the pool. Grimaud waded through what was by then a glassy surface to one of them and played. The second piano recorded Grimaud’s performance, replaying it for daytime visitors to the installation. At the conclusion of the program, she quietly waded out of the still-darkened hall, neither expecting nor acknowledging applause.