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Duo Abélard, the French pianists who enchant the first parts of Rammstein

It’s an unexpected but beautiful opening act that lights up the stadiums of Rammstein’s concerts before the evening’s heroes even arrive. On a small stage far from the legendary big machinery of the Germans, two virtuoso pianists open the ball. When the first notes of rings by the duo Abélard, the rumor is silent. And the magic of the melodies of the tracks of one of the greatest metal bands of the moment operates on an audience that has come for big sound. Héloïse Hervouët, the brunette, and Katherine Nikitine, the blonde, offer with enthusiasm and brilliance an appetizer with an exciting show. Mutter, Diamant, Früling in Paris, Zeit, Deutschland… 9 titles are linked and in the absence of Till Lindemann it is the public who gives voice. A public that does not sulk its pleasure if we are to believe the very many messages and videos posted on social networks (which they manage themselves).


Nothing, however, predestined the two friends to find themselves in stadiums, acclaimed at each concert by tens of thousands of people who probably did not know them a few moments earlier. In any case in this medium of metal since they are far from being novices in classical. Having fallen into music from an early age, crowned with distinctions and seasoned concert performers, the young women of 36 and 37 each lead brilliant careers as soloists and teach in conservatories. In Geneva for Katherine, in Monaco for Héloïse, who plays in the Monte Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Their friendship dates back to 2007/2008, at the Lyon Conservatory where they studied in piano class. Already at the time, they performed together and their duo hit the mark. And then each followed its path in a different region and they lost sight of each other… Until that day in 2019 when everything changed. Another female duo, Jatekok, was already opening for Rammstein. For the needs of a replacement, Adélaïde Panaget and Naïri Badal contact Katherine, whom they had known for a long time and who had already helped them out. She then resumes contact with her former duettist. The day before the concert, they choose their stage name, in reference to the famous medieval love story between Héloïse and Abélard, “a sign that we would put our whole heart into the work”. “It was a bit obvious to play together and we found ourselves with pleasure”says Katherine. “It works very well musically and humanly”.

The German group was seduced and then offered to perform half of the concerts to come. It was without counting on the arrival of a bad virus… Postponed to 2021, it will still be necessary to wait until 2022 for the tour to finally start. And that’s how Héloïse and Katherine put their life as classical pianists on hold for a few weeks and find themselves stringing together 22 Stadium tour dates, the last 16 in Europe (including the two French concerts in Lyon on July 8 and 9) and the 6 premieres in the United States and Canada.

The pianists ensure 22 dates of the 2022 tour (Duo Abélard)

I was already a bit of a metal fan and when I was offered this replacement I was overjoyed” Katherine recalls. “We are always in adoration in front of the composers we work with like Mozart, Beethoven but there, what is exhilarating and wonderful, is to play the music of living composers”. Héloïse discovered at that time this universe in which she plunged without restraint. “For the first show in Rostock in 2019, we had a second of intimidation in front of this stadium with 30,000 people in front of us. But we said to ourselves ‘come on, let’s go for it and give it our all’ and we went there with a lot of joy and excitement. This is what carries us every time on stage and we find it extraordinary! Now I’ve been listening to Rammstein for three years and I have a lot of admiration for what they do.”.

Despite all this admiration, joining the tour required a huge amount of adaptation work, facilitated by the rigor and concentration required in classical music. “We completely change the device compared to a solo pianistexplains Héloïse. There are up to 300 people working on a concert, with the security, sound and light aspects to be managed. We had to learn to play on digital keyboards that we have to tame“. For their set list, we also had to make choices. “It was difficult because we love all their songs”continues Katherine.But we chose those that went best on the piano, those where the melody is very present, on beautiful harmonies, therefore which are compatible with our universe”. “And then we have our fantastic arranger Jonas Atlan, who makes us sublime arrangements of the songs”, complete Heloise. A choice validated by the group, different from that proposed by the Jatekok duo, which “reflects our personality, they point out.

We can be grateful to Rammstein for experimenting without complex with this mixture of genres (it’s a bit of his trademark, by the way). Betting on this reinterpretation of their titles in the first part is an artistic choice against the current, cheeky but paying. The two pianists are also firmly convinced that, whatever the musical style, emotion is the basis of everything, for musicians and fans alike. “We have great respect for this public which sometimes comes from very far away.”emphasizes Katherine.We have a real responsibility and it was not won in advance.

We know that we come face to face with metalheads who expected more metal in the first part. They are captive to our piano for 45 minutes so we wanted to be up to speed.

“We worked like crazy, sticking to the structures of the songs so people can sing at the same time, it allows them to participate and be with us. The first concert in Denmark was a great relief, with a welcome from audience of an incredible warmth. From the first song we saw that people were hanging on, they were singing, clapping their hands. It reassured us a lot!”.It takes us”complete Héloïse. “There is a lot of energy and adrenaline going through us and the nights are not easy afterwards”.

Members of a large family during the tour, they are a little apprehensive about the end of the Rammstein adventure. “We have so much glitter in our eyes that we can be a little blinded”, Heloise is having fun. Each one already has a busy schedule awaiting them on their return from the United States, between concerts for one, release of a record for the other and resumption of classes at the conservatory. But the two young women only hope for one thing, to continue a road together “which gives a lot of meaning to [leur] music”. They have a lot of desire and… secrets that they cannot reveal yet. The very young Abélard duo certainly has a lot of great things in store for us. Above all, listen!

To find Héloïse and Katherine: Duo Abélard on Instagram or on Facebook

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