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Valérie Aimard

The French cellist Valérie Aimard, after the adventure of Cello Kids, a channel dedicated to cello teaching, created a channel dedicated to solo cello and gladly accepts to talk about it with us.
How did you come up with the idea of creating a YouTube channel dedicated exclusively to solo pieces for cello?

Playing the cello is my passion in life and studying new works, learning new repertoire is almost my hobby! In 2017, I played the complete Bach Suites in concert for the first time. After this accomplishment, I needed to embark on another big project. There appeared this dazzling desire to bring together and record the cello pieces that I have always played and that I love to play. I was completely inhabited by this project, with a need to carry it out. It was so much work in 2 years to record this very demanding repertoire in front of 3 cameras and a collection of microphones! This represents 18 days of recording, hundreds of hours of listening and editing. Some contemporary pieces are very spectacular and almost choreographic, I had this desire for video, visual music with specific lighting. It was impossible to publish 5 hours of music for cello solo on DVD! Creating a YouTube channel to have high visibility and easy access imposed itself.

Did you already have these pieces in your repertoire or did you look for them, found, and studied them specifically for this project?
I did not learn any new works. I had all pieces in my repertoire and have played them in concert. Some pieces I learned when I was a student, others more recently and finally it traces my life, my journey as a cellist. I made a rigorous selection, I left aside a list of very interesting pieces, but it was important to choose carefully and to know when to stop. Another cellist would have chosen totally different pieces, so it makes this selection very personal.

In publishing them, did you follow a particular logical order?
Yes, I carefully thought about it so that everything has meaning. It is an arch form. The first and last video will be Witold Lutoslawski’s Sacher Variation: one in its original version, the other one in a mimed and sung version without cello! The channel ends with French music which is my “native music”: Henri Dutilleux, Jean Louis Florentz, Guy Reibel, and a theatricalized version of Debussy’s Sonata. Baroque pieces still eclipsed by Bach’s Suites are interspersed: Ricercare by Degli Antonii and Gabrielli, Caprices by Dall’Abaco. These are the roots of the works of the following centuries and were contemporary music in their time! I linked pieces from very different periods or styles which have similarities: Kodaly’s monumental Sonata with the furtive and touching pieces by Kurtag, Telemann’s Fantasies for flute (the only transcription), and Per Slava by Penderecki composed in the same free form with an almost improvised tone or cellist-composers: Franchomme, Piatti, Cassado. Below the videos, you can read my personal notes on the works. Some very precious like our working sessions with György Kurtag and Guy Reibel. Memories of concerts, significant encounters with great musicians, or my imagination for certain pieces. A story of 30 years spent with my cello: an autobiography in music!

Which are the ones that were most appreciated by the public?
At the moment, Franchomme’s Caprice in B minor is attracting the most views. It is a magnificent piece, the sound of the cello is so deep and melancholic, almost like in Chopin’s music. The first pieces composed for the cello solo in 1680, the Ricercare by Degli Antoni have been published recently and are still rather unknown to cellists. They have got a lot of views too. The interest is similar for the other pieces whatever the era: Gabrielli, Piatti, Kodaly, Reger, Penderecki, Ligeti, Britten. Only Cello has not yet found the same audience as Cello Kids, dedicated to teaching repertoire, which has 700,000 views. The 2 channels represent 200 recorded works: a cello encyclopedia. I hope Only Cello will find its audience: so many pieces for solo cello together, it has no equivalent on the Web. It is such an accomplishment!

Which of these compositions do you like best and for what reasons?
Guy Reibel’s Haikus composed especially for me on Japanese poems with mime are the pieces I cherish the most. It’s 100% Valérie Aimard! Kodaly’s Sonata and Dutilleux’s 3 Strophes sur le nom de Sacher are for me the two brilliant masterworks of the 20th century. I feel very close to these lyrical, epic, and highly poetic pieces. The daring idea of scordatura offers a sonority of rare depth and opens up unexplored harmonic possibilities.
I love the dramatic construction of Britten’s 1st Suite, the tragedy of Weinberg’s 1st Suite, the solitude of the Canzona of Bloch’s 1st Suite… In truth, it is difficult to have a preference, because one of my selection criteria was to deeply believe in the musical content of the works. It is exciting to switch from one style to another and to find the harmonic, instrumental, and expressive characteristics of each composer.

Can your project be considered complete, or are you planning to publish other pieces?
Yes, the project is complete: the 65th and last video will be online on April 13th, 2022! It is a great personal accomplishment that gives me a lot of satisfaction, even a certain pride.
Before starting I had a total vision of the repertoire that I wanted to record and on the finish line it corresponds exactly. I only gave up the formidable Sonata by B. A. Zimmermann, which I replaced with the 4 short Studies! After completing this huge adventure, I felt strongly that it was time for me to record the Bach Suites. It will be on CD, the recording is planned for 2022.

Thank you, Valerie, for telling us about your beautiful project, and good luck with the recording of Bach’s Suites!

March 9, 2022

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