Eclectic performer, eminent Beethoven, Jean-François Heisser excels as much in Chopin, Brahms, Bartók as in the French repertoire that he likes to play on period instruments. Far from being put off by the most complex contemporary creation, he is also one of the rare French pianists to shine in Spanish music. As we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Olivier Messiaen’s death, the pianist, who is also a conductor, recorded From canyons to stars (1), at the head of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Chamber Orchestra, which he has directed for twenty-two years. A score written following a trip to Utah, United States.
A friendly relationship
Born in 1950 in Saint-Étienne, Jean-François Heisser put himself in front of the keyboard at the same time as he was learning to speak. “If I hadn’t chosen music, I would have become a historian”, says the artist. At 14, the teenager decided to devote himself to music after hearing a recital by pianist Vlado Perlemuter, a disciple of Ravel. Having become, like his master, a professor at the conservatory, Jean-François Heisser has trained formidable musicians such as Jean-Frédéric Neuburger and Bertrand Chamayou, with whom he has directed the Ravel Festival since 2020.
His meeting with Messiaen dates from his adolescence at the Saint-Étienne conservatory, when the composer was playing his Visions of the Amen with his wife Yvonne Loriod. “The couple was very warm, especially herhe recalls. He was more secretive, she more expansive. From the top of my 16 years, I asked her why she was interested in me. She replied that they were in the process of creating the “Messiaen competition” and that I would have to try it. »
Fascination for the orchestra
Although she was not her teacher, Yvonne Loriod never ceased to show her sympathy, in particular putting her foot in the stirrup to replace her during concerts. It is essentially the orchestral work of Olivier Messiaen that Jean-François Heisser has performed since the time when he was the pianist of the Philharmonic of Radio France, in the 1980s. “His orchestra has always fascinated me, he enthuses. For me, it is part of Berlioz’s genealogy. » His version of From canyons to stars is indeed captivating, youthful, polychrome, playing on detail to better underline its unity and spiritual power.