CHRISTINA PETROWSKA QUILICO PERFORMS PIANO CONCERTI FROM THE BAROQUE TO 21ST CENTURY
When it comes to piano concerti, few artists have performed as wide a range to such acclaim as Christina Petrowska Quilico. Her live performances run the gamut from the Bach D minor to the warhorses – such as Beethoven’s Emperor, the Grieg and Chopin E minor – and to 20th century repertoire, both established masterworks and new creations. Spain’s Luis de Pablo was so struck with how she played his first concerto that he dedicated his second to her.
In early 2017, she recorded seven Mozart concerti for The Mozart Effect series, conducted by Charles Cozens. Later the same year, she will perform the Piano Concerto in D minor by Canadian composer Claude Champagne (1891-1965) twice with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and conductor Victor Feldbrill as part of the Canada Mosaic series celebrating the country’s sesquicentennial.
Petrowska Quilico was only 10 when she made her orchestral debut, playing the Haydn D major Concerto in Toronto with Toronto’s Conservatory Orchestra conducted by Ettore Mazzoleni. Then at 14 as co-winner of a concerto competition – with Murray Perahia – she played Mozart’s K. 488 with orchestra in New York. The New York Times hailed her as a “promethean talent”, and subsequently in solo recitals as “an extraordinary talent with phenomenal ability…dazzling virtuosity”, playing “to perfection”.
While still in her teens, she performed the Richard Strauss Burleske, Prokofieff’s first, second and third concerti, Bartok’s first and a Mozart concerto – some with the famed CBC Symphony Orchestra. She also performed the Chopin E minor at the Juilliard School, and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with orchestra in California.
Since then, she has collaborated with such esteemed conductors as John Eliot Gardiner and Bramwell Tovey; and with leading orchestras including the Toronto Symphony, National Arts Centre, CBC Vancouver, Winnipeg Symphony, Taipei Symphony, Esprit, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and the Greek Radio orchestras.
Petrowska Quilico has premiered and/or performed no fewer than 20 contemporary piano concerti over the course of her career, amongst the more than 200 new works she has introduced.
Her 50 recordings of classical, romantic and new music have garnered four JUNO nominations. Three of these were for concerto performances: Glenn Buhr’s piano concerto (with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bramwell Tovey for CBC Records), Heather Schmidt’s second piano concerto (a CBC commission for her and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony conducted by Daniel Warren, on the Centrediscs CD, Tapestries – of which The WholeNote magazine wrote, “Making it sound easier than it is, Quilico’s performance …is coloristic and well-paced, justifying indeed the disc’s
title Tapestries.”), and Larysa Kuzmenko’s 1995-96 piano concerto (Toronto Symphony conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste, on her 2010 Centrediscs release, 3 Concerti).
The Kuzmenko work shares the CD with concerti by Violet Archer and Alexina Louie. Alex Pauk conducts the National Arts Centre Orchestra in the Louie; while the Archer features the CBC Vancouver Orchestra under acclaimed British maestro John Eliot Gardiner.
Reviewing 3 Concerti, Peter Burwasser of Fanfare Magazine wrote, “Christina Petrowska Quilico plays all of this music with vivid brio, always finding a lucid textural balance with the orchestra. Her rock-steady rhythmic pulse and palpable enthusiasm seem to beg the listener to pay attention to the music, as if to say that none of this deserves obscurity.”
When she performed the Louie concerto live, William Littler of the Toronto Star wrote, “That able champion of the contemporary keyboard literature, Christina Petrowska Quilico, applied the proverbial hammer and tongs to a piano part full of cluster chords, glissandos and runs, surrounded by enough orchestral goings-on in rapidly changing metres to keep conductor Alex Pauk working overtime.”
Her recording of the Healey Willan piano concerto, with Victor Feldbrill conducting the Taipei Symphony Orchestra in Taiwan, is also on her CD True North Festival, and in the TV documentary of the same name, shown numerous times on Bravo. At the 1989 Athens Music Festival, she premiered a piano concerto by Greek composer George Koumendakis with the Array Ensemble and conductor Henry Kucharzyk. For a change of instrument, she has played the Harpsichord Concerto by R. Murray Schafer.
Petrowska Quilico’s Centrediscs recording of David Mott’s concerto Eclipse features the solo piano with a bevy of traditional and world music instruments, and was truly out of this world; it debuted on the Space Shuttle Atlantis with astronaut Steve MacLean.
Another intriguing combination of musical forces occurs in George Fiala’s folklore-inspired Concerto Cantata, with Wolodymir Kolesnyk conducting the Canadian Ukrainian Opera Chorus. It appears on the Tapestries album.
A Juilliard graduate, Petrowska Quilico credits her training in the grand Russian and European traditions for her ability to learn and perform challenging repertoire in short time. Her subsequent studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and in Germany allowed her to study with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Gyorgy Ligeti. She was also coached by Pierre Boulez and John Cage, in addition to her collaborations with other composers.