Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, one of Canada’s most notable interpreters of 20th and 21st-century music has written an open letter responding to the recent death of the influential composer/conductor Pierre Boulez.
In the letter, Petrowska Quilico reflects on a few key exchanges that she shared with Boulez throughout her career. They first met in the early ’70s, and Petrowska Quilico was astonished to find that Boulez remembered a letter she’d sent him years earlier as a student — and not just the content of the letter; he also remembered her name.
She recalls that Boulez once invited her to see him conduct Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival. As she was leaving the opera house, Boulez pulled up in a Mercedes, offered her a ride home, and invited her to come to a second show of Parsifal — this time seated in the orchestra pit.
Aside from being a pianist, Petrowska Quilico also has a notable career as a visual artist. She credits Boulez’s scores and compositional techniques with helping her develop not just as a musician, but also in her drawings. She repaid the favour by countering some bad press Boulez received in New York with a clever cartoon. Some of the critics in New York had called Boulez “metronomic.” Petrowska Quilico sent him a drawing of a group of metronomes, one of which was saying “Boulez is not one of us.”