Story by Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco | September 29, 2017

Original article 

When Ottawa-born pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico was only 10 years old, she performed Joseph Haydn’s Concerto in D Major with Toronto’s Conservatory Orchestra – and amazed the audience. By the time she was a teen, the New York Times was using such descriptors for her talent and skill as Promethean, phenomenal, “dazzling virtuosity” and “playing to perfection.”

Quilico went on to become the extraordinary adult talent one imagines possible when listening to a child prodigy perform. The praise and accolades, including four JUNO nominations, have continued to flow throughout the almost six decades she’s been recording and performing a diverse repertoire of solo, orchestral and chamber music on four continents.

Quilico’s music travels to space
In 2006, the tribute to her talent went out of this world. One of her 50 albums, a recording of the piano concerto written by David Mott specifically for Quilico, debuted in outer spacewhen astronaut Steve MacLean took it with him on the space shuttle Atlantis. It became the first CD to put human music in the heavens. Quilico, who’s also a professor of piano performance and musicology at York University, walked into her class the morning the debut was reported in the news. “All the students were clapping,” she says. “I asked them what I had done. They said, ‘You didn’t see the newspaper?’  I had no idea. It was very exciting.”

The focus of her excitement now is in anticipation of her scheduled soloist performance of Claude Champagne’s piano concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and maestro Victor Feldbrill on Oct. 21 and 22, 2017, at Roy Thomson Hall. Curated by Feldbrill and called With Glowing Hearts, the program explores Canada’s rich history of classical composers.

“The concerto I’m playing was written in 1948 and it’s wonderful,” says Quilico, who’s performed more than 35 concertos. “I get to do flashy stuff, and romantic stuff, and it’s nice to be able to play music that reflects that era of Canadian music. I love all music, but I really love playing concerto. I get a real high with an orchestra.”

The concerts also bring together two of the most respected champions of Canadian contemporary composers: Feldbrill and Quilico, who has premiered more than 150 contemporary pieces, including the work of such renowned Canadian SOCAN member composers as Violet Archer and John Weinzweig. That devotion earned her the 2007 Friends of Canadian Music Award from the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) and the Canadian League of Composers. And in 2010 she received the inaugural Harry Freedman Recording Award for composers as a co-recipient with composer Constantine Caravassilis. “I’ve wanted to support Canadian music because there are so many wonderful composers who get lost by the wayside,” says Quilico, who’s been especially recognized for her virtuosity in interpreting challenging contemporary compositions.

PULL QUOTE: ““I’ve wanted to support Canadian music because there are so many wonderful composers.”

In turn, Canadian composers have been so taken with her interpretation of their works that many, including SOCAN members Mott, Larysa Kuzmenko, Steven Gellman and Heather Schmidt, have written music specifically for her. The late Ann Southam, known for her minimalist style, was another composer who trusted Quilico profoundly with her compositions. “I really fought to have her music in the beginning, because music has its flavour of the year and at the time, and in the 1980s the flavour wasn’t minimalist,” said Quilico. The two first collaborated in 1982 when Southam asked Petrowska Quilico to do a demo recording of Rivers. “I found it quite slow,” said Quilico. “I was seven or eight months pregnant at the time, so I figured she wouldn’t yell at a pregnant lady. I called her and said, ‘You know, I’ve changed your stuff around quite a bit.’ She said, ‘Well, let me hear it.’ She just loved it and said ‘You can do whatever you want with my music.’”

The two developed a 30-year friendship and collaboration. In 2018, Quilico will be releasing an album of Southam’s early work. “There are some really neat surprises that are going to happen on that album, and it shows the wealth of her creativity,” says Quilico – who, between teaching, performing, and recording, keeps a hectic schedule.

As of September 2017, Quilico had already performed more than half-a-dozen-times in the year, including a recital featuring the solo piano works by her late first husband, Michel-Georges Brégent, at the 50th anniversary celebration of Montréal’s Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec. She released Worlds Apart, a double-album recording celebrating Canadian composers. She’ll also give a concert of solos by women composers for Winnipeg’s Groundswell series, Global Sirens, on November 28, 2017.  And she’s working with David Jaeger, who’s setting to music a selection of poems she wrote in her youth.

It turns out the child prodigy was also a talented poet, whose work was published in the New York Times. “I did speak to one of the editors, who said, ‘You have to make up your mind. I love your writing, but if you go into writing, then you can’t also be a concert pianist,’” she says.

Luckily for Canadian composers and the classical music genre, Quilico chose to be a concert pianist. “I found playing was really easy so I just went along with it,” she says. “Music is sound and emotion and there are no boundaries. It’s always changing. I like it. It gives me a sense of adventure.”

Watch the Piano Ecstasy Concert Video Stream

Nine pianists, six grand pianos, works by Reich, Cage, and Shostakovich, and a world premiere.

Globe and Mail Review of Piano Ecstasy Concert

Nine Canadian virtuosi will join us for an eclectically entertaining program that ranges from hypnotically minimalist to downright funky. Also highlighted is the world premiere of Two Pieces for Three Pianos, a new work by acclaimed Canadian composer Glenn Buhr.

Glenn Buhr, piano
Simon Docking, piano
Chris Donnelly, piano
Tania Gill, piano
Russell Hartenberger, piano
Serouj Kradjian, piano
Gregory Oh, piano
James Parker, piano
Christina Petrowska-Quilico, piano

John Cage: The Beatles 1962-1970
Dmitri Shostakovich: Concertino
Witold Lutoslawski: Variation on a Theme by Paganini for Two Pianos
Colin McPhee: Balinese Ceremonial Music
Glenn Buhr: Two Pieces for Three Pianos (world Premiere)
Steve Reich: Six Pianos

Please click bottom right icon for full-screen; play; then gear icon for HD quality.

Summers International Presents

These paintings, over 100 of them, were painted by piano virtuoso Christina Petrowska Quilico, over the 3 year gestation of this double album, inspired by the music she was performing.

Renowned for her stunning interpretations of contemporary music, Christina performs a concert launching the world premiere 2-CD Centrediscs recording, Visions: Rhapsodies & Fantasias, featuring the evocative, exhilarating and profoundly individual music of Constantine Caravassilis.

Please join us Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 7:30pm in the Glenn Gould Studio.

Louis Quilico: “The Most Happy Fella”

Louis Quilico, legendary Metropolitan baritone was often referred to as Mr.Rigoletto from his title role in the Verdi opera. In fact he has a biography which also features his teaching philosohy named Mr. Rigoletto: In Conversation with Louis Quilico by his wife Christina Petrowska Quilico (Captus Press) and a commemerative CD called Mr. Rigoletto: My Life in Music (Analekta) However, in his last 8 years of his life he referred to himself as The Most Happy Fella, a role from the opera of the same name by Frank Loesser.  Quilico was acclaimed in this role at the New York City Opera by the New York Times and by Opera News in the recording which he made in 1998 in London England and New York City for Jay records. His happiness was also a result of his marriage to renowned pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico with whom he recorded 4 CDs and toured with extensively in concerts.

Louis Quilico’s final concert in New York City was at Merkin Hall on March 30th, 1998 accompanied by his wife Christina Petrowska Quilico. The program included works by Rachmaninoff, Tchaikowsky, Borodin, Duparc, Debussy, Italian songs, Verdi and 2 excerpts from Most Happy Fella. Included was a spontaneous speech Louis Quilico made on his inspiration for singing. Enjoy these excerpts by Louis Quilico and Christina Petrowska Quilico in memory of his birthday.

More, in memoriam of Louis Quilico’s life and music:

See also: “Honouring Louis Quilico

Visions: Rhapsodies & Fantasias CD COVER 480sq
Visions: Rhapsodies & Fantasias CD cover

Summers International Presents

Piano virtuoso Christina Petrowska Quilico, renowned for her stunning interpretations of contemporary music, performs a concert launching the world premiere 2-CD Centrediscs recording, Visions: Rhapsodies & Fantasias, featuring the evocative, exhilarating and profoundly individual music of Constantine Caravassilis.

Please join us Tuesday January 22, 2013 at 7:30pm in the Glenn Gould Studio.

Enjoy listening to Christina performing part 1 of an excerpt from the CDs, accompanied by her paintings inspired by Constantine’s music, on her CBC Music page.

Click on the video button below her photo, then the icon of the CD as displayed above, and enjoy… full-screen, if you’d like!

Part 2 of the preview is featured at the Canadian Music Centre’s site. For full-screen viewing, please choose a higher quality from the gear icon, then the bottom right icon for full-screen play.

Please click bottom right icon for full-screen; play; then gear icon for HD quality.

Every musician’s passion and dedication is evident as Maestro Kristian Alexander conducts the Kindred Spirits Orchestra and myself as guest pianist, in this full-length performance of Edvard Grieg’s beloved Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 16.

Complete credits for all musicians and orchestra personnel appear at the end of the film.

This was the *only concerto Grieg completed. It is one of his most popular works and among the most popular of all piano concerti.

It was originally scored for 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets in A and B flat, 2 bassoons, 2 horns in E and E flat, 2 trumpets in C and B flat, 2 trombones, tuba, timpani and strings (violins, violas, cellos and double basses). He later added 2 horns and changed the tuba to a third trombone.

The work is among Grieg’s earliest important works, written by the 24-year-old composer in 1868 in Søllerød, Denmark, during one of his visits there to benefit from the climate, which was warmer than that of his native Norway.

Grieg’s concerto is often compared to the Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann: it is in the same key, the opening descending flourish on the piano is similar, and the overall style is considered to be closer to Schumann than any other single composer. Compact disc recordings often pair their concertos.
The enduring popularity of Grieg’s Piano Concerto has ensured its use in a wide variety of contexts.

The Concerto was featured in the film The Seventh Veil (1945) as the piece played by the young concert pianist (Ann Todd; the uncredited pianist was Eileen Joyce).
It was famously parodied in Franz Reizenstein’s Concerto Popolare of 1959 (written for Gerard Hoffnung’s music festival).

The concerto was used in a sketch by the British comedians Morecambe and Wise in their 1971 Christmas show, conducted by André Previn, with Eric Morecambe as soloist. Morecambe claims he is playing “all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”.

The first movement is used in Adrian Lyne’s 1997 film Lolita.

In 2004, it was featured in a Nike commercial.

The opening piano piece in the first movement is featured in a 2008 Range Rover commercial.

The first movement was used in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s cult TV show Twin Peaks season 2; episode 21.

The first movement was used by composer Mark Snow in The X-Files episode Salvage.

Crossover pianist Maksim Mrvica plays a modernised version in his album The Piano Player.

The music of the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg continues to be relevant in †popular culture into the 21st century. This is due to his music’s fast pace, instrumentation, and similarity in feel to many popular musical genres. This is not a coincidence, since Grieg was known for taking many of his melodies from Norwegian folk music, especially from the western shore area around Bergen. He is quoted as writing, “I am sure my music has the taste of codfish in it.” His music’s notability in popular culture is evidenced by the vast number of references to his music in music teaching, cartoons, “pop” concerts, and other forms and media.
His music continues to fascinate scholars as well. He has had much influence on high culture and low, including on Percy Grainger, the Australian folk music composer and collector.

One reason his music is so popular today is that:

“Grieg … saw that his music appealed to people beyond his own immediate sphere of activity. Musicians and audiences were enthusiastic in both America and Australia. In the hundred years that have passed since Grieg’s death, many of his works have … in recent years met with a greater interest and it is perhaps a healthy sign that a younger generation of musicians has revitalized the manner of performing Grieg’s music – liberating it from some of the hoarier myths.”

~Arvid O. Vollnes

Another reason his music is popular is that his is “music that is easy to remember”:

In today’s pop music world, the word hook refers to the catchy, repeated element in a piece of music… In classical music, the same concept applies. A hook helps you remember, and identify with, a particular piece of music. The compositions of Mozart … Grieg, and Schubert have hooks galore – so many hooks, in fact, that several of them have been pilfered for the melodies of today’s rock songs.

~“Classical Music for Dummies”

HD Video Production: (+twitter)

Assembly and post-production of sound
by David Jaeger (+twitter)

Additional cinematography and time-lapse sequence
by Paul Cormack (+twitter)

RED Epic super-slow-motion and super-wide-angle footage
by Ian Sun, Anansi Moving Images

Up Close and Personal camera on Christina’s face
by Roman Milo, Fugitive Glue (+twitter)

Many thanks to Jobert Sevellino for additional footage
of Maestro Kristian Alexander. (+twitter) (+twitter)

* from “Grieg Piano Concerto

† from “Grieg’s music in popular culture

Friday May 4 at 8 pm $25; $20 seniors; $10 students

Gallery 345
345 Sorauren Avenue
Toronto Ontario M6R 2G5


Oskar MORAWETZ Duo for violin and piano (1961)
James ROLFE Drop for violin and piano (1998)
Gary KULESHA …and dark time flowed by her like a river… for violin and piano (1993)


W.A.MOZART Trio in C Major K.548 for violin, cello and piano (1788)
Zoltan KODALY Duo for violin and cello Op. 7 (1914)

Jacques Israelievitch, violin and Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano, perform James Rolfe’s “Drop”

Please visit the Gallery 345 site for musicians’ biographies, more information and map.

Maestro Kristian Alexander and internationally renowned Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico were the featured guests at the Rogers TV Daytime show hosted by Jeff Moor and Jacqueline Betterton.

This Grieg concerto has been featured in The X Files, Twin Peaks, Beauty and the Beast, and many other popular film and television productions.

You can also watch this video in my YouTube channel.

Ann Southam was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1937 but lived most of her life in Toronto. After completing musical studies at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music in the early 1960’s, she began a teaching and composing career which has included a long and productive association with modern dance.

Ann passed away one year ago, on November 26th, 2010.

Here are a few of my favorite pieces of hers:

Fast River #6

Glass Houses Revisited #1

Fast River #2

Glass Houses Revisited #5

Watch these, and many other favorites of mine, in my YouTube channel.