Renaissance woman Hélène Grimaud is not just a deeply passionate and committed musical artist whose pianistic accomplishments play a central role in her life. She also is a woman with multiple talents that extend far beyond the instrument she plays with poetic expression and peerless technical control. The French pianist has established herself as a committed wildlife conservationist, a compassionate human-rights activist and a writer.
Born in 1969 in Aix-en-Provence, Grimaud began her piano studies at the local conservatory with Jacqueline Courtin before going on to work with Pierre Barbizet in Marseille. She was accepted into the Paris Conservatoire at just 13 and won first prize in piano performance a mere three years later. She continued to study with György Sándor and Leon Fleisher until, in 1987, she gave her well-received debut recital in Tokyo. That same year, conductor Daniel Barenboim invited her to perform with the Orchestre de Paris; this marked the launch of Grimaud’s musical career, characterized ever since by concerts with
most of the world’s major orchestras and conductors.
Between her debut in 1995 with the Berlin Philharmonic under Claudio Abbado and her first performance with the New York Philharmonic under Kurt Masur in 1999, Grimaud made a wholly different kind of debut: she established the Wolf Conservation Center in upstate New York.
Her love for the endangered species was sparked by a chance encounter with a wolf in Florida; this led to her determination to open an environmental education center. “To be involved in direct conservation and being able to put animals back where they belong,” she says, “there’s just nothing more fulfilling.” But Grimaud’s engagement doesn’t end there: she is also a member of Musicians for Human Rights, a worldwide network of musicians and people dedicated to promoting a culture of human rights and social change.
For years, she also found time to pursue a writing career, publishing three books that have appeared in various languages. Her first, Variations Sauvages, appeared in 2003. It was followed in 2005 by Leçons particulières, and in 2013, by Retour à Salem, both semiautobiographical novels.
A committed chamber musician, she has also performed at prestigious festivals and cultural events with a wide range of musical collaborators, including Sol Gabetta, Rolando Villazón, Jan Vogler, Truls Mørk, Clemens Hagen, Gidon Kremer, Gil Shaham and the Capuçon brothers. Her impact on the world of classical music were recognized by the French government when she was admitted into the Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (France’s highest decoration) at the rank of chevalier (knight).
Grimaud has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 2002. Her recordings have been critically acclaimed and awarded many accolades, among them, the Cannes Classical Recording of the Year, Choc du Monde de la Musique, Diapason d’Or, Grand Prix du Disque, Record Academy Prize (Tokyo), Midem Classic Award and the Echo Klassik Award.
Grimaud began the 2022-23 season with a recital in Santa Fe’s Lensic Performaing Arts Center. Other highlights include performances of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Fabio Luisi (October), Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and Otto Tausk (November), St Louis Symphony Orchestra and Stéphane Denève (January), Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor with Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Louis Langrée (October). She finishes 2022 with a recital at Carnegie Hall (December). The new year starts with a European tour with Camerata Salzburg in Ludwigshafen, Salzburg, and Turin (February), followed by recitals in Vienna, Luxembourg, Munich, Berlin and London (March-May).
Her deep dedication to her musical career, both in performances and recordings, is reflected and reciprocally amplified by the scope and depth of her environmental, literary and artistic interests.
Please note: Biographies are based on information provided to the CSO by the artists or their representatives. More current information may be available on websites of the artists or their management.