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The third volume in the excellent
“Leçons particulières de musique” (private music lessons)
series, devised by Francois Manceaux and
Olivier Bernager for French television is
“Yvonne Loriod: Pianist and Teacher.” The 12-film series
was shot between 1987 and 1991, and this 57-minute
disc is the third one I’ve seen. It was filmed in 1990 and
broadcast the following year. In many ways, it’s a
“two-fer,” as Loriod’s husband, famed composer
Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992) was present for
much of the film.

Although the main focus of this disc was
Mme. Yvonne Loriod (1924-2010), it was fitting that
Messiaen was present as well. Mme. Loriod was her
husband’s muse and one-time pupil, who premiered
most of his piano works that were written from
1943 forward. From an early age, she knew a huge
portion of the standard Classical and Romantic piano
repertoire; however, she never avoided pieces from
her contemporaries who included composer
Jean-Henri-Alphonse Barraqué (1928-1973), conductor
and composer Pierre Boulez (1925 – ), and many others.

Mme. Loriod’s remarkable career deserved more time
than provided by this short film. However, since the
focus of the film and this series was pedagogical,
we observed her teaching and coaching a few pupils
in the music of Messiaen, Beethoven and Mozart.
The longest and most impressive segment was of
pianist Nicholas Angelich (1970 – ) playing the sixth
movement from Messiaen’s
Vingt regards sur l’enfant-Jésus” entitled,
“Par Lui tout a été fait.” Angelich provided a stunning
performance of this fiendishly difficult work and Loriod
acknowledged as much, while the composer watched
silently, with the score in his hand. Angelich is now a
world-renowned, concert pianist. Other famous Loriod
pupils include Pierre-Laurent Aimard (1957 – ) and
Michel Béroff (1950 – ).

Mme. Loriod also coached pianist Kei Saotome in
the third movement of Beethoven’s
“Piano Sonata No. 17 in D Minor,” aka “The Tempest,”
and coached other pupils, Yoko Kaneko and
Masaaki Yasuda, in a movement from Mozart’s
“Sonata for Two Pianos in D Major, K.448,” later
replacing Kaneko’s seat at the upper piano and playing
some of the music from memory, while encouraging
Yasuda to keep up with her, at a slightly faster tempo.

Given the strong Catholic faith practiced by Mme. Loriod
and Messiaen, it’s fitting that most of these sessions
took place in a church. This film is appropriately framed
at either end with an outdoor shot of the church, with
birds chirping away!

Speaking of birds, they are also discussed in this film
by both Mme. Loriod and Messiaen. As many are aware,
Messiaen was a practicing ornithologist as well as
a composer, and he regarded birds as the greatest
musicians. In fact, most of his music incorporated
bird songs in some form, and his “Catalogue d’oiseaux
for piano is a lengthy work, consisting of extremely
accurate pianistic equivalents of various bird songs.
Mme. Loriod gave its premiere performance.

Yes, this disc prominently features Olivier Messiaen
which is appropriate, considering the intertwined lives
of both of these great musician/teachers. The candid,
intimate footage provided on this disc made it
particularly valuable. It’s in French with English and
German subtitle options, and is a nice portrait of a
great pianist/teacher of many other accomplished
pianists. She deserves more recognition, and I highly
recommend this DVD.