Hélène Grimaud

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Hélène Grimaud
Helene Grimaud Roque-d Antheron 2004 cropped.jpg
Grimaud at a rehearsal at La Roque-d'Anthéron Festival, 2004
Born (1969-11-07) 7 November 1969 (age 50)
EducationConservatoire de Paris
OccupationClassical pianist

Hélène Grimaud (born 7 November 1969) is a French classical pianist and the founder of the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York.

Early life and education[edit]

Hélène Grimaud was born in Aix-en-Provence, France.[1] She described family nationalities in a New York Times interview with John Rockwell: "My father came from a background of Sephardi Jews in Africa, and my mother's ancestors were Jewish Berbers from Corsica."[2][3] Her father was adopted as a child by a French family and he became a university tutor teaching languages.[4] According to Luc Antonini [5] the name Grimaud is typical of the region of Trets in Provence. She has stated that, as a child, she was often "agitated".[6] She discovered the piano at seven. In 1982, she entered the Conservatoire de Paris,[7][8] where she studied with Jacques Rouvier. In 1985, she won 1st Prize at the Conservatory and the Grand Prix du Disque of the Académie Charles Cros for her recording of the Rachmaninoff Piano Sonata No. 2.

She experiences synesthesia, where one physical sense adds to another, in her case seeing music as colour, which helps her with memorising music scores.[9]


In 1987, she launched her professional career with a solo recital in Paris and in 1988 she made her debut with the Orchestre de Paris under Daniel Barenboim.[10] Grimaud made her debut with the New York Philharmonic, under Kurt Masur, in 1999, and her Carnegie Hall debut, playing the Schumann concerto, in 2002.[9]

She performed repeatedly at the BBC Proms, including at the Last Night of the BBC Proms in London in September 2008, playing the piano part of Beethoven's Choral Fantasia.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

Critics have praised Grimaud's willingness to reinterpret works and take chances, and compared her to Glenn Gould:

Grimaud doesn't sound like most pianists: she is a rubato artist, a reinventor of phrasings, a taker of chances. "A wrong note that is played out of élan, you hear it differently than one that is played out of fear," she says. She admires the "more extreme players . . . people who wouldn't be afraid to play their conception to the end." Her two overriding characteristics are independence and drive, and her performances attempt, whenever possible, to shake up conventional pianistic wisdom. Brian Levine, the executive director of the Glenn Gould Foundation, sees in Grimaud a resemblance to Gould: "She has this willingness to take a piece of music apart and free herself from the general body of practice that has grown up around it."[9]

Personal life[edit]

In 1991, at age 21, Grimaud moved to Tallahassee, Florida, to be near a boyfriend, Jeff Keesecker who taught bassoon at Florida State University.[3] In 1997, she settled in Westchester County, north of New York City. After some time spent in Berlin,[12] she resided in Weggis, near Luzern, Switzerland.[13]

She has a passion for wolves, which she studies and raises. She now divides her time between her musical career and the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, New York, which she co-founded with her former companion, photographer J. Henry Fair.[14][15][16]

Grimaud lives with her partner, the German photographer Mat Hennek in Upstate New York.[17][9]



On Denon[A]

On Erato

On Teldec

On Deutsche Grammophon

On Philips

  • Schumann Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 105, Gidon Kremer violin and Helene Grimaud piano. Recording date: 7/1989. Release: Lockenhaus Festival 1982–1992 A Decade of Music-Making (1997)

On ACA Digital Recording, Inc


  • Variations sauvages (2003, published in English as Wild Harmonies)[23]
  • Leçons particulières (2005)
  • Retour à Salem (2013)


  1. ^
    The complete Denon recordings have been released in a box by Brilliant Classics.


  1. ^ McDaniel, Sharon (27 February 2000). "Piano forte". Democrat and Chronicle. Rochester, New York. p. 27. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ Hélène Grimaud Biography - Discography, Music, Lyrics, Album, CD, Career, Famous Works, and Awards
  3. ^ a b Rockwell, John (29 May 1994). "Sacre Bleu! Don't Call Her French, Or Even Female". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  4. ^ Interview with Pianist Hélène Grimaud French pianist saved by music - and wolves by Peter Culshaw, The Telegraph, 11 Nov 2002
  5. ^ Luc Antonini, 100 aixois, qui sont-ils ? d'où viennent-ils ? qu'ont-ils fait ?, par Luc Antonini (Septèmes-les-Vallons 2012)
  6. ^ Peter Culshaw, "The pianist who's leader of the pack". Telegraph, 11 November 2002.
  7. ^ Kiraly, Philippa (3 August 1990). "Musical path was her own choice". The Akron Beacon Journal. Akron, Ohio. p. 56. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ Lee, David (5 April 1997). "Young pianist found music easy". Iowa City Press-Citizen. Iowa City, Iowa. p. 15. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ a b c d Max, D. T. (7 November 2011). "New Yorker Profile: Her Way, A pianist of strong opinions". New Yorker. New York City. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  10. ^ Harvey, Jeremy (1 February 1999). "Utah Symphony brings famous french pianist to Dee Events Center". The Signpost. Ogden, Utah. p. 6. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "Performances of Hélène Grimaud at BBC Proms". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  12. ^ Biographie: Hélène Grimaud, documentary by Alix François Meier, 2006 Archived 16 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ La-Croix.com. "La Croix - Actualité à la Une en France, en Europe et dans le Monde". La-croix.com. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  14. ^ James R. Oestreich, "A Pianist Harmonizes With Wolves". The New York Times, 5 November 2006.
  15. ^ "History". Nywolf.org.
  16. ^ Gouveia, Georgette (22 June 2007). "A Passion for the Piano". The Journal News. White Plains, New York. p. 71. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  17. ^ Kühne, Roman (17 October 2017). "Bilderkonzert: "Türen öffnen für ein neues Publikum"". Luzerner Zeitung (in German). Luzerne. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  18. ^ Award 16 May 2008, Journal officiel de la République Française, 17 May 2008.
  19. ^ Decoration - 5 April 2015
  20. ^ Oestreich, James R. (27 January 2011). "Recording as a Road to Recovery". The New York Times. New York City. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  21. ^ Madonna, Zoe (28 February 2016). "Helene Grimaud: Water". The Boston Globe. Boston. p. N6. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  22. ^ Engel, Esteban (30 September 2020). ""The Messenger" - Pianistin Hélène Grimaud kehrt zu Mozart zurück". neue musikzeitung. Regensburg. Retrieved 3 October 2020.
  23. ^ Taylor, James C. (4 November 2012). "Primal force drives Helene Grimaud". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. p. 91. Retrieved 25 May 2020 – via Newspapers.com.

Other sources[edit]

External links[edit]