Organologist, researcher and performer, Alain Roudier played an important role in the return of historical keyboards to the concert stage – and with it, the developement of the historically informed practice movement as a whole. Apart from his career in chamber music and as soloist, he is also responsible for the restoration of countless instruments, appeared many times as a lecturer on the evolution of keyboard manufacture, recorded a large discography and is author or co-author of numerous books and articles.
The early years
Alain first studied piano at the Ecole Normale de Musique of Paris with Mrs. Blanche Bascourret de Guéraldi, before having lessons with Alain Planès. From 1978 to 1979, he was a teacher of music at the French Cultural Center of Brazzaville, Congo. He subsequently became a pupil of Menahem Pressler (Beaux-Arts Trio) in 1985, and studied with him in Bloomington, USA, until 1988.
His interest for historical instruments and research sparkled early on. In September 1988 at the Festival de Besançon, he is responsible for the exhibition « Autour du Pianoforte », performing himself and with his guest Paul Badura-Skoda, who presented some pianos from his own collection never seen before in France. Later in 1989, he is invited along with Jorg Demüs at the Festival de Meursault, and again in 1990 at the Biennale des Instruments Anciens in Avignon.
Ad Libitum and the 1990’s
Over the years, Alain Roudier gathered a collection of some thirty historical instruments dated from 1780 to 1900, and played them in concert in most of Europe and beyond. In 1993, he creates the association Ad Libitum, also known as the « International Center for the Pianoforte », with the purpose to preserve, research, restore and promote the instrumental and musical legacy of the pianoforte. Thanks to a collection of over 80 original instruments, and unique knowledge and skills in restoration, Ad Libitum is today an international reference. During this time, the association made their own copy of Beethoven’s 1803 Erard and produced numerous recordings.
Following the creation of Ad Libitum, Alain is in 1993 a teacher of piano history at the Centre de Formation des Apprentis « La Bonne Graine » in Paris, and in 1995 he organizes traineeships for his students at the Museum of Fine-Arts in Besançon, « Sébastien Erard, l’aventure du Pianoforte ». At the same time, he takes part and performs in several meetings, concerts and lectures at Luxeuil-les-Bains, and publishes the book « The History of the Erard Piano and Harp ». It is also the first time that the unique 1790’s Erard grand piano from his collection can be heard. With this particular instrument, he is invited in 1994 in Blankenburg, Germany, by the Michalstein Institute for the first Erard’s symposium. In 1996 he brings no less than nine instruments from his collection to the university of Huelva in Spain.
Gathering and sharing knowledge
In the early 1990’s, Alain Roudier makes the discovery of the precious and sought-after Erard-Gaveau-Pleyel archives, saving them from certain destruction. He will be the guardian of these archives for 30 years and will be the first to make an inventory of the 12.000 objects constituting them (letters, paintings, account books, instruments…). This will lead to countless publications of books and articles such as the correspondance between Pierre and Sébastien Erard. Any instrument made by Erard, Pleyel or Gaveau, can now be dated thanks to Alain’s research.
From 1994 to 2015, Alain works with the Museo del Pianoforte Antico inItaly, directed by Bruno Di Lenna, and the pianist Temenuchka Vesselinova, who organizes an exhibition with lectures and concerts in 1996 at the Palazzo Leoni Montanari in Vicenza. It was followed by a second one at Ala in 1999, with Chopin and George Sand as a topic. Alain Roudier and Bruno Di Lenna published their first book together, « Pleyel au temps de Frédéric Chopin ». In 2003, they organize one of the biggest exhibition ever of keyboard instruments : 50 instruments in display at the Castle of Trento for five months, celebrating the publishing of the book and CD « Trois siècles de pianos ». During this time, he is also a teacher for 10 consecutive years at both of the academy of Amilly and at the Academy of Ancient Instruments in the castle of Ollans, in France.
In 2002, Alain was asked by the new Pleyel firm to design and build a new concert piano with the piano manufacturer Steingraeber in Bayreuth, Germany. After 3 of these grand pianos were made, their collaboration was brought further in 2007 with the design of a special prototype, kept in Alain’s collection today. The 2015 CD on Leos Janacek was recorded on this instrument.
In 2004, Alain Roudier was awarded the Giueseppe Mazzotti Prize for his work up to this date.
The later years
Alain is invited by the university of North Cyprus in 2009 and gives concerts and masterclasses there on two of his pianos. He then gives more performances and exhibitions during the 2010 Chopin Year in Bayreuth, the 2011 Schubert Marathon in Budapest and Belgrade, the 2015 Liszt Competition in Utrecht – for which he is also a jury. In 2019, Alain records a CD of Liszt’s music on the Ibach piano n.7000 which belonged to Wagner, kept in the Liszt Museum in Bayreuth. Finally the same year, after retiring from Ad Libitum, Alain Roudier created with his children the monthly concert series « Les Concerts du Temps Retrouvé » in Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France, where his collection of pianofortes can be visited today. This new association offers a small concert stage to young musicians in a more intimate « salon » context, as it was once done during the 19th century.
Teaching and informing musicians is still dear to Alain Roudier, therefore he also offers since 2019 a yearly ancient keyboard academy at his house, and on his own instruments. Students of all ages, all levels and from all over the world have already attended.
In 2024, Alain will publish a new book about further discoveries on Sébastien Erard as well as a new biography of the family, based on the archives of which he is still responsible. A CD of Schubert’s chamber music is also to be produced.