The Dutch independent has signed the French pianist whose plans include Messiaen’s mighty Catalogue d’Oisseaux.

The Dutch independent label Pentatone has scored a major signing by tempting Pierre-Laurent Aimard away from Deutsche Grammophon. The highly respected pianist has had a nearly ten year relationship with the yellow label, but his half a dozen releases over that period have been sporadic with nothing since his well-received first book of The Well Tempered Clavier back in 2014.

“I am delighted to be starting on this new collaboration with Pentatone and am looking forward to working on the many exciting repertoire plans that we have been discussing,” Aimard said in the label’s press release.

The French pianist, who won this year’s Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, is especially noted for 20th-century repertoire and beyond, having enjoyed close relationships with both Messiaen and Boulez. For Pentatone, he intends to record key works from his repertoire ranging from the keyboard works of JS Bach to the music of György Kurtág.

He will begin, however, by scaling one of the repertoire’s highest peaks: Messiaen’s complete Catalogue d’Oiseaux, due for release next March. Aimard last performed the marathon 18-hour cycle last year at the Aldeburgh Festival, playing each piece at the time of day it is meant to depict, from first light to midday and on to dusk and night. “The pedigree of the performance was impeccable. Aimard is one of the finest Messiaen interpreters around,” the Guardian said of that performance.

Messiaen wrote the birdsong-inspired catalogue for his wife Yvonne Loriod, and both played an important part in the life of the young Pierre-Laurent Aimard. “Yvonne Loriod came to my final examination in Lyon where she was member of the jury and more or less kidnapped me,” Laurent told Limelight in an interview last year. “She proposed that I should be in her class and this was a miracle for me because she was a legendary figure as well, and I got the chance to know Messiaen… Because they didn’t have children, and her relationship with her students could be very strong and pronounced, I soon got the chance to travel with them and I went to their country house… I got to work on a lot of pieces with her and with him as well. This was really a privilege… Later on, when I was in Ensemble InterContemporain we played a lot of Messiaen and he would come all the time because he had a close relationship with Boulez. He would hear me and so I could ask him for critiques or suggestions or commentaries for several of his pieces.”

Aimard showed his Messiaen credentials in Australia last year, earning a five star review in Limelight for his interpretation of the taxing Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus: “A self-effacing presence, dressed soberly in black, Aimard’s focus is firmly on the music and only on the music. And what focus. His commitment and involvement, not just with the music but with his (equally black) instrument is total. I honestly can’t recall hearing and seeing a pianist so tangibly alert to the sound he is producing… Again and again, you are aware that his choices stem from the sonic effects swirling around him, tempered by the philosophical and spiritual demands of the composer and his grand musical plan.”

Renaud Loranger, Pentatone’s Vice President Artists and Repertoire, was clearly delighted at his new signing. “I have long admired Pierre-Laurent’s unparalleled artistry and uncanny, fascinating intellect,” he declared. “It is a great privilege to be developing recording projects with him that will certainly be recognised as landmark interpretations. His appetite for repertoire, old and new is properly immense, and he will find at Pentatone a new artistic home where he can share his captivating insights with a broad audience of connoisseurs and newcomers alike.”