Helene Grimaud, Claudio Abbado’s music spat goes public

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

A creative dispute has emerged between pianist Hélène Grimaud and conductor Claudio Abbado, providing the classical music world with a rare display of public acrimony.

The fight appears to stem from a creative difference over which cadenza Grimaud should have played for a Deutsche Grammophon recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, according to reports this week in the New York Times and New Yorker magazine. Grimaud, who was recording the piece with Abbado, arrived with a cadenza by Ferruccio Busoni, while Abbado wanted her to use a cadenza written by Mozart.


Grimaud eventually recorded the piece playing both the Busoni and Mozart cadenzas, said the reports. The pianist apparently favored using the Busoni cadenza in the recording, but later, Abbado made it known that he wanted to include the Mozart cadenza. The move prompted Grimaud to block the recording. As a result of the spat, the two musicians have canceled appearances together that were planned for London and Lucerne.

The New York Times quotes Grimaud as saying, ‘It’s neither the first nor the last musical partnership to go south.... For Claudio it’s pretty clear he has no interest in working with someone who doesn’t do what he likes.’

Abbado declined to comment, said the newspaper.

Grimaud, who is considered one of the top pianists in the world, is featured in a lengthy profile this week in the New Yorker.

The profile recounts her creative dispute with Abbado over the Mozart cadenza. ‘There’s a little bit of a parent-child relationship, where the parent always sees the child, no matter how old you get,’ said Grimaud in the article, referring to Abbado. Later in the article, Grimaud is quoted as saying: ‘Compromise, it has to be said, was never my forte.’

The article also catalogues some of the pianist’s unconventional behavior in the past, including her personal passion for wolves: ‘Grimaud does not relish the stiffness of the classical world. In a 2004 photograph of her, prized on the Internet, she is rehearsing with an orchestra wearing what looks like a wife beater; more recently, she apologized to a music reporter for showing up for an interview smelling of deer meat.’


Music review: Gustavo Dudamel conducts ‘Zarathustra’ at Disney Hall

Music review: Apollo’s Fire and Philippe Jaroussky at Royce Hall

Hilary Hahn and the encore: What’s that again?

-- David Ng