We remember it well. In Autumn 2014, after eight years of building works, the eagerly awaited auditorium opened its doors for its first season, put together by its music programming counsellor Antoine Manceau. Soon, the Nagata-designed acoustic stood out as one of the most effective in Paris, with its intimate atmosphere and its clear, shimmering timbre. Three seasons later, it has now become one of the capital's most notable halls for piano, with a specific focus on young artists in a way that no other French organisation that we know of has matched. Some will say that it's a matter of perspective – after all, there are several excellent pianists in the Arnault family – but, none the less, in the course of three years, the "New Generation Piano" series has succeeded in making a name for itself with a diverse audience, ranging from card-carrying music lovers to the more artistically omnivorous.

Fondation Louis Vuitton © Iwan Baan
Fondation Louis Vuitton
© Iwan Baan

With the opening in 2015 of the ambitious Paris Philharmonie and its 2400 seats, objectives had to be realistic. To live beside such a giant, it was essential to fight on a different front, to plough a different furrow: more modest, for sure, given the 350 seat capacity, but with the possibility of bolder programming. While many musical projects in France are commercially driven, exorbitant prices have no place at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, where ticket buyers jostle at the gate and tickets disappear quickly. And with no less than ten concerts a year dedicated to the new generation, the Foundation is positioned squarely as a champion of young artists. This season's programme doesn't stray from that path: from December 2017 to June 2018, audiences will have the chance to see no less than seven young stars.

Beatrice Rana © Neda Navaee
Beatrice Rana
© Neda Navaee

Next into the lists, Behzod Abduraimov (December 7th) is a young wolf with fabulous fingertips. After a Liszt B minor Sonata whose shattering impact we can easily imagine, the Uzbek pianist will be serving up one of his great specialities, Prokofiev's terrifying Sonata no. 6 which, under his fingers, we expect to be a true sonic jungle. Another notable guest is Italian pianist Beatrice Rana, on January 20th. Fresh from pushing Bach to its limits with her recent Goldberg Variations, Rana is turning her attention to Schumann's Symphonic Studies and Ravel's Miroirs; be prepared for the shockwaves when she attacks the three parts of The Firebird in Guido Agosti's stunning transcription. Playing such iconic works may constitute a risk for a young artist, but that doesn't seem to frighten these two: Abduraimov and Rana seem unfazed, and we can all be thankful for that!

Beethoven isn't left on the shelf this year: after Seong-Jin Cho's sonatas last month (no. 8 "Pathétique" and no. 30), next up will be Giuseppe Guarera on March 9th and Sélim Mazari on Jun 8th, to perform the no. 23 "Appassionata" and the pairing of nos. 16 and 31 respectively. But we'll note that each of these two artists is willing to show that there repertoire isn't limited to the commonplace. Selim Mazari will turn his gaze to the delicate art of Scarlatti, with a selection of his sonatas, while Guarera will be hunting exotica with Debussy (Estampes) and Liszt (the rarely performed Rhapsodie espagnole), before which his fingers will have already been given a serious workout by the shifting arabesques of Rachmaninov's Etudes-tableaux, Op.39.

Gautier Capuçon © Gregory Batardon
Gautier Capuçon
© Gregory Batardon

That's an impressive list, and one that sets out both the diversity and the coherence of the Fondation's look over the world's pianistic landscape. The modus operandi seems to have been to invite, over the years, as much promising talent as could be found, be it French or foreign, to prioritise discovery and diversity. But inspection of the programmes reveals an understanding not just of the repertoire but also of the specialities of each of the chosen artists. What's noticeable about each is that they are already so specific as artists. All exemplify, each in their own way, the way the life of today's young musician has evolved, launched into an international career so early, with a specific style, sound, artistic footprint already in place by age 25. Unsurprisingly, they have all won competitions or have come to attention in well known places: consider Seong-Jin Cho's impressive double of winning both the Tchaikovsky and Chopin prizes.

Once is not enough: stringed instruments return strongly into this year's programme. Apart from Gautier Capuçon's masterclass, now in its fourth edition, note the arrival of cellist Victor Julien-Laferrière on March 30th, first prize winner at the Queen ELisabeth Competition, as well as a true prodigy, the 17-year old Daniel Lozakovich on June 28th. The young Swedish violinist will be paying homage to the great legends of the past: Milstein, Kreisler and – of course – Paganini.

Fondation Louis Vuitton © Iwan Baan
Fondation Louis Vuitton
© Iwan Baan

Looking only at the music side, it's worth noting that the complete set of events is organised into a number of cycles: one dedicated to the new generation of pianists, another more generally revolving aroung young artists, but also with more temporary events such as the new cycle wholly devoted to jazz, starting on 26th April 2018. Looking over the programme, one's mouth can't help watering at the attractively laid out menu: Chick Corea (April 26th) preceding Gwilym Simcock (May 3rd), Shai Maestro in harness with Shahin Novrasli (May 2nd), Elliot Galvin and Craig Taborn (May 8th) interweaving the notes of the Myxolydian mode with the Japanese Hirajoshi. Add in the very young Joey Alexander and you have a playbill worthy of a substantial festival. This is the chance for the Fondation to affirm its commitment to the eclectic, putting into practise an approach to music which is open to all styles.

Faced with such abundance, it's impossible to name everything. Still, it would be impossible to resist mentioning that the quality of the selection is just as high in the other arts, including superb temporary exhibitions like the one which runs until March 5th, devoted to the collections from New York's Museum of Modern Art.

 

This preview was sponsored by Fondation Louis Vuitton