Maverick French pianist Hélène Grimaud is particularly interested in the ways music can bypass rational thought processes and trigger a variety of emotional responses. Her latest album is a collection of short pieces chosen and organised around the nature of memory. Memory is a companion piece to her thematically-conceived 2016 album Water, a live recording of performances from a large-scale immersive installation at New York’s Park Avenue Armory.

The pieces chosen for Memory are like fleeting ephemeral mirages, flashes of colour, “crystalline miniatures capturing time,” as she elegantly puts it. The kings of French Impressionistic musical snapshots, Debussy and Satie, feature heavily, in addition to a Chopin Mazurka, Écossaise and Waltz. Of particular interest are works by living composers: two Bagatelles by Valentin Silvestrov, a Ukrainian composer whose entire musical framework centres on memory, and Breathing Light by renowned British Indian musician/producer/composer Nitin Sawhney.

Grimaud’s artistry is such that Satie’s first Gnossienne, technically simple and turned by overuse into aural wallpaper, is a revelation in her hands, its stilted, music-box qualities transformed into a fragile vignette from another time. These qualities are further enhanced by a gloriously resonant recording in a Munich space that has allowed Grimaud to get inside every sonic nuance of these deceptively simple works.


Composer: Debussy, Satie, Chopin
Performer: Hélène Grimaud p
Catalogue Number: DG 4835710