Browsing: Piano

“He started at a very early age.” So it is written of many competition laureates. Bryn Blackwood, 28, the winner last April of the 42nd Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition in Brandon, Manitoba, took up the piano just before he turned 16. “Mine was a bit of a strange case,” he commented from his hometown of Simcoe, Ontario. Tiring of the trombone he was playing at school, Blackwood came across a performance of Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 on the then-fledgling platform of YouTube. “I decided that I wanted to play it,” he recalls, “even though it was drastically too hard for…

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Samuel Blanchette-Gagnon’s career is taking shape – in fact, it’s taking off. In May the young pianist won the prestigious 2019 Prix d’Europe, the Claire-Charbonneau-Clerk Award and the Canadian Music Centre Award for Quebec. He has performed Book 2 of Debussy’s Images and Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 2. This isn’t the first time Blanchette-Gagnon has won awards. A former student of Gérald Lévesque, he has been enrolled in a master’s program at the Conservatoire de musique de Québec since 2018. In 2014, Blanchette-Gagnon won the Canadian Music Competition grand prize, playing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1. This competition gave him…

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Founded in 1996, the Piano Esmonde White company, named after its founder Oliver Esmonde-White, has established itself as a Quebec leader in the areas of piano rental, transportation, tuning and manufacturing. Bolstered by the expertise of its technicians, this company located in Montreal’s Mile-End district has just launched a brand-new model of high-end uprights: Magic pianos. In the 1980s, in the United States, Darrell Fandrich of Fandrich & Sons had already developed a very high-quality mechanism for the upright piano – achieving sound qualities similar to those of a grand piano. The technicians at Piano Esmonde White drew inspiration from…

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Carter Johnson, technically a resident of Vancouver, was in Montana, on his way to New York. The cellphone connection was spotty.“It’s a lot cheaper to drive,” the 22-year-old said, with his wife Hannah at the wheel. “If we were to ship this stuff, it would be way too expensive.”Their two-year-old son Preston would be flying in with his grandmother. “Too much driving for him,” Johnson explains.The road trip marked a new chapter in the career of this pianist, who last year won both the grand prize in the OSM Manulife Competition and first prize in the Stepping Stone division of…

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Tony Siqi Yun is listed second-to-last, alphabetically, on the roster of pianists represented by the New York-based Opus 3 talent agency. Following him: Krystian Zimerman. Where the Toronto native made it to the top of the list was in last May’s inaugural China International Music Competition in Beijing. A management deal with Opus 3 (the descendant of the Sol Hurok organization) and Armstrong Music and Arts was part of his gold-medal prize package, which includes three years of coordinated concertizing in North America, Europe and China. And, oh yes, a cash prize of US$150,000. “Tony exhibited professionalism, musicianship, poise and…

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Then 16-year-old Australian pianist Shuan Hern Lee won the 2019 Cliburn Junior Competition, he was already preparing repertoire for his next competition. In August, Lee was preparing to fly from his hometown, Perth, to the Ferruccio Busoni International Piano Competition in Bolzano, Italy. He is one of the youngest candidates. Lee’s hyperactive competition schedule is the typical experience of many young musicians today. They readily crisscross the globe. Competition participation is not only seen as a necessary and natural career strategy but as an opportunity to meet fellow musicians and peers. It is also viewed as a means of globalizing…

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“A city where you couldn’t throw a brick without breaking a church window,” the American humourist Mark Twain once called Montreal. From Sept. 8 to Nov. 1 – but especially in early October – you might stand a chance of hitting an organist instead, as the 2019 Grand Organ Festival unfolds under the auspices of the Canadian International Organ Competition. The official opening is an open-console Sunday afternoon at the mighty von Beckerath of St. Joseph’s Oratory. This opportunity to inspect the workings of this impressive tracker instrument should appeal to kids of all ages. There are also family-friendly events…

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Hungarian music is part of my heritage,” says Sebastian Haboczki, a former member of the Atelier lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal. “The music and the rhythms have been part of my being, part of my essence, since I was born.” Not that you have to be Hungarian to enjoy the Music of Hungary concert given by this tenor on Oct. 5 at St. James United Church, with soprano Melissa McCann, violinist István Lakatos and pianist Paul Digout. The nation has always travelled well, musically and otherwise. Repertoire is primarily vocal and possibly unfamiliar to those who have not, like Haboczki,…

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Polarized Views on Domingo A lengthy Associated Press report on the alleged inappropriate behaviour of Plácido Domingo has divided music lovers. Supporters of the general director of the Los Angeles Opera point out that he took no for an answer – eventually – when approaching potential paramours. Others contend that his conduct constituted harassment. The story by Jocelyn Gecker claimed that seven of nine performers interviewed felt that their careers were “adversely impacted” by their non-cooperation. Two said they accepted his advances. The only accuser who let her name be used, retired mezzo-soprano Patricia Wulf, subsequently told NPR: “I didn’t…

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The anniversary year of Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949) is marked by the re-emergence of a piano concerto that he wrote at the height of his fame. Pfitzner, acclaimed for his 1917 opera Palestrina, delivered the concerto in 1923, with Walter Gieseking as soloist. If Palestrina echoes Wagner’s Meistersinger, the concerto nods repeatedly in the direction of Brahms’s B-flat – and the nodding is done mostly by the listener. Pfitzner’s fallen reputation is sometimes ascribed to his gruesome flirtation with the Nazis but this concerto suggests something more organically at fault. Each of four movements is introduced by a promising idea, which…

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