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Yvonne Loriod

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Yvonne Loriod could play with great power, which serves the music well in the appropriate places. Her playing was described as impulsive and engaging. She was very analytical where every note has been thought of separately. Loriod has been very successful at giving us the direct line to the subtlety, spirit, and power of the compositions performed. None of these radio performances have been published before.


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YVONNE LORIOD plays Albéniz, Ravel and Schumann

1. ALBÉNIZ: El puerto, Iberia Cahier 1, No.2 [03:54]
2. ALBÉNIZ: Eritaña, Iberia Cahier 4, No.3 [06:39]
3. ALBÉNIZ: Almeria, Iberia Cahier 2, No.2 [09:12]
4. ALBENIZ: Lavapiès, Iberia Cahier 3, No.3 [06:15]
5. RAVEL: Ondine, Gaspard de la nuit [07:06]
6. RAVEL: Le Gibet, Gaspard de la nuit [06:43]

Recorded · 21 March 1950 · Frankfurt · Altes Funkhaus Eschersheimer Landstraße · Hessischer Rundfunk · Radio Studio Recording

7-9. SCHUMANN: Fantasie in C Major, Op.17 [28:58]
Recorded · 15 October 1952 · Frankfurt · Altes Funkhaus Eschersheimer Landstraße · Hessischer Rundfunk · Radio Studio Recording

Additional Information

Article number: MC 1018
Release date: 02 May 2014
UPC barcode: 0791154050187
Total time: 68:49

Producer and Audio Restoration: Lynn Ludwig
Booklet Notes: Michael Waiblinger
Design: Alessia Issara
Photographs: Boris Lipnitzki and Willy Pragher
With special thanks to Allan Evans
From the Original Masters · © 2014 Meloclassic

Yvonne Loriod was born January 20, 1924 in Houilles, one of three sisters, on the north-western outskirts of Paris. She began studying the piano at the age of six with her Austrian godmother Nelly Eminger-Sivade and by the age of fourteen her repertoire included all the Mozart concertos, all the Beethoven sonatas, the Bach ’48’ as well as the standard classical and romantic works. At the Conservatoire she studied first with Lazare-Lévy for piano and André Bloch for harmony and won no fewer than seven first prizes at the Conservatoire, including one for piano in the summer of 1943. When the Nazis deported both these teachers in the early months of the Occupation, her piano studies resumed under Marcel Ciampi and her harmony ones under Messiaen, who returned from his prisoner-of-war Stalag VIIIa camp in Silesia in May 1941, where he had been held as a prisoner of war during the winter of 1940-41 and where his Quartet for the End of Time received its legendary first performance.


Loriod was one of the pupils in Messiaen’s first class that he held at the Paris Conservatoire after repatriation on the 7th May 1941. She says of that first encounter that ‘all the students waited eagerly for this new teacher to arrive and finally he appeared with music case and badly swollen fingers, a result of his stay in the prisoner of war camp. He proceeded to the piano and produced the full score of Debussys’ Prelude á l’apres-Midi d’un Faune and began to play all the parts. The whole class was captivated and stunned and everyone immediately fell in love with him.

Messiaen quickly saw in Loriod somebody whose dazzling technique and phenomenal memory could interpret his music as he saw it and anything he wrote was possible to play through her. In the early months of 1943 he wrote his two-piano work Visions de l’Amen, in which he took creative account of her particular technical strengths, incorporating into her part, that for the first piano, “the rhythmic difficulties, the chord clusters, everything which is velocity, charm and sound quality”, while reserving for himself “the principal melodic material, the thematic elements, everything which demands emotion and power”. If this division of labour, together with what the composer referred to as Loriod’s rôle de diamantation in the Trois Petites Liturgies de la Présence Divine, premiered two years later, suggests a traditionalist view of feminine pianism, Loriod’s command of keyboard power was amply recognised in the solo cycle Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus, which she premiered in the Salle Gaveau, Paris, on 26 March 1945.

Although she played Chopin, Schumann, Bach, de Falla, Albéniz, Beethoven, Debussy, Bartók and Mozart often, including a cycle of radio recordings of Mozart’s piano sonatas in Paris in 1951, her reputation was made in contemporary music, much of which was almost or entirely unplayed by others – one suspects as much for technical as for aesthetic reasons. Other first performances, apart from those of Messiaen’s works, included Boulez’s Second Piano Sonata (1950) and Structures II at Donaueschingen with the composer at the other piano (1961), Zimmermann’s Exerzitien (1952), Barraqué’s Piano Sonata (1957), Jolivet’s Second Piano Sonata (1959) and Gilles Tremblay’s Pièce pour piano (1961).

Her American debut was the world-premiere performance of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphonie with Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1949. Her phenomenal memory enabled her to learn Bartok’s Second Piano Concerto in eight days ready for the first performance at Théatre des Champs-Élyées in Paris on 15th November 1945 with Orchestre National conducted by Manuel Rosenthal.

Her working and personal relationship developed to Messiaen over the years and on the 1st July 1961 Messiaen and Yvonne Loriod were married, following the death of Messiaen’s first wife Claire Delbos in 1959. Loriod made a comment in an interview with Michael White in 1999 on the two decades prior to their wedding, in which the joy of their fabulously productive musical and spiritual collaboration was tempered by the tragedy of Claire’s slow demise, tells its own story: ‘So we cried. We cried for 20 years until she died and [we] could marry.’

She was at the Edinburgh Festival in 1965, but the following year, when the New Philharmonia Orchestra was forbidden by the Musicians’ Union from bringing over a French ensemble for the British premiere of Messiaen’s Les Batteurs, she and her husband were so furious that they refused to have anything further to do with the concert.


When Messiaen wanted to compose his musical catalogue of birds, Loriod drove him round the country in her Renault as he recorded what he called “God’s musicians”. She later recalled: “He noted the birdsong and in the evenings he would make a more detailed score. He adored wildlife. He wouldn’t even kill a mosquito. One day in the country his score was covered with flying ants. ‘Can’t you get rid of them?’ he asked me, ‘but don’t hurt them.’ I took the score outdoors and got the insecticide. For the last three decades of Messiaen’s life the couple lived a simple and devoutly religious life near Montmartre, surrounded by crucifixes, a copy of the Bible and their recordings. Her husband, despite his success, remained organist at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Paris – a post he had held since 1931 – until his death in 1992.

Then she devoted herself to his memory. She discovered and published forgotten works that she found among his papers and gave occasional concerts. The last few years of her life, spent at a hospice outside Paris run by the Petites Soeurs des Pauvres, were extremely difficult ones of poor health and mental decline, so there was a great sense of release and solemn joy in contemplating her passage to the eternal life of which both she and her husband spoke so eloquently in word and music throughout their lives.

Loriod died aged 86 on May 17, 2010 in St. Denis, France.

© Michael Waiblinger 2014

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