The Grammy Award-winning French pianist has been recognised for a life devoted to the service of music.

French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard has been awarded the 2017 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. The Grammy Award-winning pianist – whose performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Vingt Regards in Sydney last March got five stars from Limelight editor Clive Paget – will receive his award, which is endowed with 250,000 Euros, at a prize ceremony on June 2 at the Prinzregententheater in Munich. The Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of music, is given in recognition of a life devoted to the service of music.

Pierre-Laurent Aimard, photo by Marco Borggreve

“In Aimard, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation honors a pianist of light and color who brings clarity and life to everything he plays,” the Foundation said in their press release. “His unusual path from the music of the present to that of the past, his boundless joy of discovery, and the meticulousness with which he devotes himself to composers ranging from Bach to George Benjamin make him one of the exceptional musicians of our time.”

Aimard was named principal pianist of Pierre Boulez’s Ensemble Intercontemporain when he was 19 years old and went on to develop a close personal relationship with the composer. He has worked with many of the 20th century’s great composers including Messiaen – whose wife Yvonne Loriod was Aimard’s piano teacher from age 12 – Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Kurtág and György Ligeti, all of whom have also won the Siemens Music Prize.

Aimard will perform at the prize ceremony in June and in 2017 the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation will award a total of 3.5 million Euros in prizes and grants, including Composers’ Prizes to three promising young composers who will be announced in late February. The composers will have their works performed at the ceremony by the Munich Chamber Orchestra.

As a winner of the Siemens Music Prize, Aimard is in good company. Since the award was established in 1974, it has been won by Benjamin Britten, Leonard Bernstein, Luciano Berio, Daniel Barenboim and Anne-Sophie Mutter, to name just a few. The 2016 prize was awarded to Danish composer Per Nørgård.

“[Aimard’s] treatment of recent and current music as something completely natural that – for all the different and novel qualities that led to the name ‘New Music’ – is by no means separated from that of the past by any rejection or rupture,” wrote Ulrich Mosch in an essay on the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation website. “He displays an approach to interpretation that … focuses entirely on getting to the heart of every score, intellectually and emotionally, in terms of its pianistic presentation as well as questions of form, structure and sound.”