Rising Stars – Matt Poon: Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition (E-Gré)

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The Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition (E-Gré) is a unique competition in which contemporary music is highly promoted. The Final was held this past spring at Brandon University and pianist Matt Poon won the first place as well as the prize for the best performance of the commissioned work. He received almost $17,000 including a $10,000 cash prize, a residency of three weeks, and a debut recital at the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival in Italy, as well as the Cross-Canada Winner’s Tour in November 2016.

Poon began his undergraduate studies in Piano Performance in Music at the University of Toronto and moved to New York City to study Piano Performance and Composition at the Manhattan School of Music, where he completed two Master’s degrees. He studied piano with many leading pianists including Anthony de Mare, Carol Ann Aicher, Christopher Oldfather, and Midori Koga. As a composer he also won several prizes both during and after his bachelor studies. He publicly appeared for the first time at the age of 16 with the Esprit Orchestra, where he performed excerpts of ‘tween by Ron Ford.

Though introduced to contemporary music by one of his teachers while he was in high school, Poon says he never felt comfortable playing this repertoire until he was in New York, studying at the Manhattan School of Music, where there were New Music Ensembles and living composers with whom he had the opportunity to work. He also took lessons with Anthony de Mare who inspired him to get out of his comfort zone.

In the final round of the Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, Poon played André Ristic’s Prelude and Fugue and Brian Cherney’s Dans le crepuscule du souvenir, both pieces by Canadian composers that require several extended techniques. He also played one of his own compositions entitled Shimmering Blue Grass, which was inspired by the Integral House in Toronto. He said he was glad he found pieces he really connects with through the CMC’s archives, as he would not play music he does not believe in.

As a composer, his orchestral pieces have been played by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and the Manhattan School of Music Orchestra. He was also commissioned to write for the American String Quartet. The 29-year-old pianist is also implicated in theoretical studies as he completed research in György Ligeti’s Études pour Piano (Excerpts). This resulted in a research project he called The Principle of Breakdown in “Chaos Theory” and “Fractal Geometry” and a series of lecture-performances about Ligeti’s Études.

Poon is undoubtedly passionate about new music. “I truly love this repertoire and I care about it so much,” says Poon. “I feel so honoured to be part of this group of pianists. This has been a very emotional journey and I’m so grateful.”

» www.mattpoon.com, www.e-gre.ca

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About Author

An-Laurence Higgins est une jeune musicienne passionnée par tous les arts avec un intérêt marqué pour la musique contemporaine et électronique. Elle étudie présentement la guitare classique à l’Université de Montréal et s’implique dans divers projets de création, car elle croit fortement au caractère essentiel de la musique et des arts contemporains. Parallèlement à ses activités de musicienne, An-Laurence écrit pour La Scena Musicale et enseigne la guitare. / An-Laurence Higgins is a passionate young musician with a particular interest for contemporay and electronic music. She is currently studying classical guitar at the Université de Montréal and participate in various creation projects, because she strongly believes in the essential nature of contemporary music and arts. Besides her music studies, she is writing for La Scena Musicale and teaching guitar.

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