The French virtuoso brings his unique perspective to the mighty Vingt Regards.

You were becoming known for contemporary music by the age of 16. What led you towards the music of the late-20th century so early in your career?

My first piano teacher was in fact a flute player who was interested in many things. She composed music for experimental theatre, and she had been a part of an orchestra of young musicians in summer classes for new music, like in Basel in Switzerland with Pierre Boulez. She gave me a musical education that started with Renaissance music, well not in terms of what I would play but in terms of what I would listen to, up until the most recent music and including world music like the music of Bali. She brought me scores of Stockhausen or Boulez, so it was a large-minded education.

So when did you first encounter Messiaen’s music?

We had a series of concerts of new music in Lyon that was excellent. The person who organised that was a chemist, but he was also an amateur pianist and loved new music – he was sight-singing Boulez’s Second Sonata all the time!...