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4 | 2008-2009
The Letter
Academic year 2008-2009
Selected papers
Inaugural lectures

Chair of Artistic Creation

Academic Year 2008-2009
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
p. 16
Cet article est une traduction de :
Chaire de Création artistique

Notes de la rédaction

Pierre-Laurent Aimard gave his inaugural lecture on 22 January 2009. His course entitled “Parameters and dimensions of musical interpretation” began on 18 February 2009.

Texte intégral

Extracts from the inaugural lecture:

1“Is it justified to entrust a performer with a Chair of Artistic Creation? Is this not over-estimating the role of a servant of composers and their works? Is it not giving in to the all-too-common tendency to put the performer, whether brilliant or insignificant, in the foreground – a habit that spurs the sensational and all its consequences? On the contrary, I believe that it is a way of taking advantage of the performer’s highly singular position as an interface between the secret world of creation and the public world of social interaction. The performer’s gift of ubiquity makes him or her particularly well-suited for taking the pulse of artistic creation, and for being an ideal observer of changes in musical cultures, continually underway in a plural society.

2[…] For decades, the deepest strata of our past were the subject of abundant work by musicologists and performers. Brought back to life, they sometimes generated marvellous moments of discovery or re-discovery – but also empty modes or dogmatisms. In parallel, what was considered as the repertoire of so-called classical music (ranging roughly from Viennese classics to the last post-Romantics) was interpreted more and more impeccably, but perhaps generally with less inspiration. Finally, ensembles devoted to music of their period were created and gradually achieved a high quality. This situation corresponded to a world of specialists, sometimes with a high level of competence, but compartmentalized into periods and categories. Thus compartmentalized, musical society resembled – and still resembles far too much – the juxtaposition between other categories, exegetes of Baroque, Romantic heroes and technicians of Contemporary. This situation has nevertheless changed, thanks to the widely diverse actions of many different actors. An antidote to hyper-specialization consists in wanting to embrace everything, often mixing a desire for universality with a fantasy of ubiquity. But assimilating a style or a work with a view to a performance worthy of the name requires time, and poorly-channelled broad-mindedness can easily turn into inconstancy. This danger is evident not only in performing but also in programming: there is a proliferation of programmes where often uncontrolled eclecticism easily results in catch-all ‘menus’.

3[…] Should the first and most natural priority for a performing musician not be the relationship with the creators of his or her day? The rich contribution of their unorthodox thinking, the “disturbance” caused by the singularity of their approach, the inspiration induced by their original perception, all have an initiatory value. […] They are the visionary architects of a future still to be built.

4[…] Yet, throughout the world, the majority of student instrumentalists […] are still being trained according to schemas and especially mentalities that have evolved little or insufficiently since post-Romanticism. The fact that certain temples of world musical teaching are also sanctuaries of conservatism says a great deal in this respect. Stagnation is endemic in certain Far-Eastern countries where outdated Western models are copied. A quasi-industrial policy of teaching music is applied, one as ambitious and impressive in terms of its quantitative and competitive results as it is obsolete in terms of content. […] The world of teaching has a promising future when it proposes a vision in phase with our polycultural environment, turned towards the future and not fixed on nostalgia for another age…

5[…] Each performer’s repertoire is the reflection of his or her artistic thinking and profound convictions. This connectedness of works is not only a manifestation of his or her identity – tell me what you play and I’ll tell you who you are – but also the result of his or her critical view of the musical world: shortcomings to compensate for, educational act. The collective repertoire, a framework of reference in which a musical society lives, is the sum of individual repertoires. How can one build one’s own repertoire today? Certainly not by copying models that have had their day but no longer correspond to our multicultural world. It would be more fruitful to organize a network of complex works, attesting to a certain view of history, current events and compositional permanence.”

6The inaugural lecture is available from Editions Fayard and on DVD (Collège de France/CNED/Doriane co-production). The lectures and seminars are available online in english on the Collège de France’s website.

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Référence papier

The Letter of the Collège de France, Collège de France, Paris, juin 2009, p. 16. ISSN 1958-1408

Référence électronique

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, « Chair of Artistic Creation », La lettre du Collège de France [En ligne], 4 | 2008-2009, mis en ligne le 15 novembre 2010, consulté le 22 février 2018. URL :

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Pierre-Laurent Aimard

Pianist, Professor at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique de Paris and at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne. Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival

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