Interview - Jean-François Heisser
"In this sense, he affirms that he feels that one of the problems with young musicians, is that they are propelled onto the scene, whereas before he “was coming out of a class with a lot of energy for, and telling myself, you have to trust time and with time, things will come”. There was, in his own words, an acclimatization time to the trades.
On the role of the artist, he says that the purpose of the music is to give means to express yourself, and ""what we call technique, it is at the service of expression"". He talks about his experience playing classical European repertoire, some pieces by Spanish composers, and about his relationship with contemporary composers, such as Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen and Dutilleux. Additionally, Heisser talks about his relationship with renowned filmmaker Eric Rohmer, who introduced him to Schnabel's recording of the Diabelli Variations.
Regarding his role as a teacher, he says that he likes to play a lot in class, and that he is not afraid that students will want to imitate him, since “It's not a question of imitation, it's a question of seeing how things can work, it's also a question of being able, you know, to open different doors sometimes, to demonstrate that there is no truth, but at the same time that when you look closely at a text, you are not constrained in the end, and in general, the great composer knows very well how to show you the way and gives you freedom, a freedom within a framework anyway”.
... the pedagogy of the piano has never been a pedagogy of the instrument in itself, but always linked to the sound of the music and of course, to the sound of the orchestra and the sound of the strings through the chamber music.
1973: 1st Prize in piano, counterpoint, harmony, fugue, accompaniment and chamber music.
Jean-François Heisser is a well-rounded artist, leading a versatile career as a pianist, conductor and teacher, fueled by a vast cultural knowledge and tireless intellectual curiosity.
Born in Saint-Etienne, he is the disciple and heir of Vlado Perlemuter, Henriette Puig-Roget and Maria Curcio.
He was profesor at the Paris Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique from 1991 till 2016. Among his talented students are Bertrand Chamayou and Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, with whom he has developed a relationship of close musical complicity.
He now balances his career as a soloist with his activities as the musical director of the Nouvelle- Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra (since 2001), and as guest conductor and also artistic director of various institutions and major musical productions.
His extensive discography boasts over 40 recordings: after his highly acclaimed recording of the piano works of Paul Dukas (awarded the Diapason d’or de l’année prize), he embarked on a collaboration with Erato Records (a 6-CD boxed set dedicated to the Spanish repertoire of Schumann, Brahms, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, etc.), then with Naïve Records (Beethoven, Brahms) and Praga Records (Weber, Berg, Manoury, Bartok…). His recording activities are currently centered on recordings with the Nouvelle Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra for Mirare (de Falla, Wien 1925, Dubois, American Journey, Edtion of the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos) and Musicales Actes Sud (Albéniz, Mompou) labels. Just issued : the recording with Marie-Josèphe Jude of his transcription for 2 pianos of the Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique (Harmonia Mundi). Erato/Warner also recently published a box of his famous spanish recordings.
As a soloist, he has played under the baton of renowned conductors such as Janowski, TilsonThomas, Segerstam, Krivine, Mehta, Plasson, Roth etc., with, among others, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre de Paris, the Bayerischer Rundfunk, the Orchestre National de France or Les Siècles… He frequently performs in recitals, with a preference for Beethoven (Sonatas, Diabelli Variations etc.), Brahms, Chopin, the Spanish repertoire (Albéniz, de Falla, Granados, Mompou) and, naturally, the works of great French composers of the past and present. Alongside his performances of great concertos and major works of the piano repertoire, he is also an eager proponent: S. Poltronieri of 20thcentury works and contemporary creation: the Turangalilâ-Symphonie and Olivier Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Étoiles, under the direction of Mehta, Janowski or Segerstam; Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke, Mantra and Kontakte; or the world first performance, among others, of Gilbert Amy and Nguyen Thien Dao’s Piano Concertos, along with three major works by Philippe Manoury: La Ville, Veränderungen pour piano seul and Terra Ignota for piano and 22 musicians. His uncompromising approach to interpretation leads him to perform regularly on period pianos (Weber: The Four Sonatas – Praga Records -, Konzertstück – on Mirare-). Under the direction of François Xavier Roth and his orchestra “Les Siècles”, he also alternates between modern pianos (the three Bartok concertos) and period instruments (Saint-Saëns and Brahms).
As a chamber musician, Jean-François Heisser has, needless to say, covered the entire repertoire with musical partners such as the Ysaye, Lindsay and Pražák Quartets, and his recording of the Bartok sonatas with Peter Csaba (on Praga) is now regarded as an essential work. He has also emerged as a leading advocate of the four-hands piano repertoire and of works for two pianos, notably with G. Pludermacher, M.J Jude and J.F Neuburger, and has also written daring and magnificent transcriptions for two pianos of works such as The Rite of Spring or the Symphonie Fantastique (recording with Marie-Josèphe Jude – Harmonia Mundi Jan 19). An event recording of Mantra by Stockhausen, produced with JH Neuburger, will be released in September 2020 for Mirare.
As a musical director, he has been in charge of developing the Nouvelle Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra project since 2001, firmly establishing the orchestra as one of the finest French chamber ensembles, as reflected in its recordings on the Mirare label: the orchestra’s rendering of a primitive version of de Falla’s El Amor Brujo as well as of Berg’s Kammerkonzerte were both widely acclaimed by the musical press, and are now praised as reference recordings of these works. A recording of the Complete Beethoven Concertos conducted from the piano has been released in 2017. As an artistic director, his ongoing partnership with Editions Actes-Sud has led him to direct the musical program of the Soirées Musicales d’Arles. From 2015 onwards, he will also serve as the artistic advisor of the Festival de l’Orangerie de Sceaux. And finally, continuing the work and preserving the memory of his mentor Vlado Perlemuter, “historical” performer of the great French composers,
Jean-François Heisser is also the President of the Maurice Ravel International Academy, a major educational center for the training of talented young artists. Jean-François Heisser is also the president and artitsice manager of the Ravel Festival in Nouvelle-Aquitaine since August 2017.