Music News

Hélne Grimaud

Even dudes into orchestras love the ladies. It's no wonder that marketing mavens trying to peddle classical music to audiences accustomed to guzzling pop have found success in selling various aspects of femininity, from purity personified (Charlotte Church) to sexuality magnified (ultra-hot violinist Vanessa-Mae and Bond, a U.K. string quartet stocked with leather-loving babes). Pianist Grimaud, a native of France, represents another familiar female archetype: the doe-eyed ingenue. Yet Credo, Grimaud's debut for Deutsche Grammophon, works not because of her look, but because of her sound, in which meaty classical fare is seasoned with accessibility.

Working with the Swedish Radio Symphony, under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen, Grimaud offers classical vets a double dose of Beethoven, and the rich keyboard skills she displays throughout "The Tempest" and "Choral Fantasy" are indisputable. To put it simply, she's not just a pretty face. However, she wisely frames these efforts with renditions of "Fantasia on an Ostinato for Solo Piano," by John Corigliano, an American composer known for works that bridge minimalism and more traditional styles, and "Credo," by Arvo Pärt, a modernist whose dynamic takes on sacred music have been given a wide hearing thanks to his series of discs on the ECM imprint. The result is atmospheric enough to entice fans of new-age compromisers such as George Winston, but it doesn't leave a vapid aftertaste.

Although the cover shot of Grimaud looking vulnerable and waif-like may bring in the paying customers, Credo offers substance in return. That, gentlemen, is doubling your pleasure.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts