Last May, 22-year-old pianist Élisabeth Pion from Otterburn Park, Quebec, won the Shean Piano Competition in Edmonton for her performance of Rachmaninoff’s Third Concerto. With this feather in her cap, she is about to embark on a Master’s at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London with Ronan O’Hora. Shortly before her departure for the U.K., Pion spoke about her world of freedom, multidisciplinarity and solitude – ingredients that seem to match her pensive look and the nonchalance of a young Martha Argerich.
Talk of music quickly veers off into the autobiographical Carnets by Camus, which she is currently reading: “I’m exploring his notes, which describe his writing career with all its dead ends and farewells. Whether it’s a festival, a concert, you always end up having to say goodbye to something or someone.”
We also discuss the spiritual elements in Hermann Hesse and the madness of Nijinsky. In another reality, Pion would like to work with Pina Bausch and talk to Albert Einstein and Vladimir Horowitz – in short, grow alongside these universal spirits, these “seekers after the truth.”
Nonetheless, at 22, this artist has her feet firmly on the ground. “As a player, I want to go at a reasonable pace, take the time to gain experience for the years ahead,” she says. “I want to make progress in a balanced, healthy way.”
One way she finds this balance is to vary her repertoire and instrumental combinations. Although she loves playing solo, she delights in the “magic of connection” that you get in chamber music, and the ecstatic feeling she gets when the orchestra carries her on a wave of sound. She is grateful to her teachers at the Conservatoire de Montréal, Suzanne Goyette and André Laplante, who have supported her in her quest for authenticity, independence and self-knowledge, allowing her to surpass herself without becoming exhausted.
Pion enjoys solitude, indulging her love of Beethoven, Schumann and Prokofiev, whom she admires for the depth of his writing, sprinkled with humour and irony. While she seeks to convey the musical text as accurately as possible, bolstered by research on the repertoire, she also insists on having a personal sound and rejects the trend towards standardization. She willingly draws inspiration from the organic torrent of Martha Argerich, from Clara Haskil and the Hungarian-born pianist András Schiff. Her great ambition is to follow in the footsteps of these giants of the piano.