The prix d’Europe: a force in Canadian musical life for 110 years

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

The Prix d’Europe will celebrate its 110th anniversary this year. Since its beginning, the scholarship offered by the Prix d’Europe has enabled winners to study abroad. The competition offers what might be called a sabbatical year for further development after musical studies and before embarking on a professional career.

“We are always transformed by studying abroad,” comments Vincent Boucher, vice-president of the Académie de musique du Québec and organist at St. Joseph’s Oratory. “I think that the Prix d’Europe was an important cultural driving force in Quebec in the sense that a Quebec musician who went to Vienna or Paris and came back completely transformed then taught this new knowledge to future generations.” ­Indeed, a whole segment of Canadian musical life – large and small – has benefited from the Prix d’Europe. “These are people who have not necessarily all had big international careers, but they have become active and important players here, if only through education,” Boucher adds.

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One of the main advantages of the competition is the wide variety of instruments that ­compete and the multidisciplinary nature of the jury. “Receiving feedback from musicians who play an instrument other than your own is often much more rewarding,” Boucher says. “The judges will appreciate the music as such, without getting wrapped up in the technical aspects of the instrument. Thus, it is the musical qualities of the instrumentalist that are emphasized.”

Over the years, the Prix d’Europe has made a point of enhancing and encouraging the participation of candidates by offering more and more scholarships. Also, to make it easier for young musicians, the competition tries to adjust to academic life. “That is to say that we work more and more with the professors so that there is really a process,” Boucher says. “Someone who finishes work at the Conservatoire or a master’s degree at university could – or should – pass the Prix d’Europe immediately afterwards.”

Because it works differently from what you would expect from a music competition, the Prix d’Europe is ultimately almost an anti-competition. “How do you measure a clarinetist to a pianist or a singer?” Boucher asks. “It’s hard to have a favourite. It really is ­another universe.

“The point also in all of this is that the ­exercise is useful for all candidates. I think we live in a world where we have put too much value on the first prize, which is not a perfect barometer. I believe much more in a competition like the Prix d’Europe, which develops the entrepreneurial and creative side, and which leaves more leeway for expression.”

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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