This all-Canadian program—curated by renowned conductor and Canadian music champion Victor Feldbrill—explores Canada’s rich history of classical composers. Notable Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico is the featured soloist in the Romantic-style Piano Concerto by Québec composer Claude Champagne. (Pictured: Christina Petrowska Quilico, piano)
Original article: https://www.tso.ca/concert/glowing-hearts
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.
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.
“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.”
PHOTO COURTESY BO HUANG
STORMY NIGHT: Christina Petrowska Quilico launched Worlds Apart in April as an homage to some of her fallen colleagues.
Engage Christina Petrowska Quilico in a conversation about the creative arts, and she’ll take you on a tour of her paintings in her Yorkville home.
Two of those paintings, Light and Dark, were used in crafting the cover of her two CD album, World Apart.
“I do a lot of painting. It’s important to have this inter-relation of arts,” she says, with a teacup Yorkie in her lap. A pug runs around at her feet, adding a splash of grey on a white-on-white décor.
Mixing arts is the foundation of her work these days. Worlds Apart pays tribute to both literature and the classic composers. Those arts provided the inspiration.
The first CD is Classics with a Twist, and features the romantic, light side of her piano work. Compositions by John Rea, Peter Paul Koprowski and Steven Gellman. The second CD is Worlds Apart, the same as the collection, and features works by David Jaeger, Michel-Georges Brégent, Patrick Cardy, Diana McIntosh and Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux. It’s the dark half to the first.
Petrowska Quilico shares a happy anecdote about her late mother sharing a moment with Koprowski when he paid Quilico a visit. Being of Ukrainian, Polish and Hungarian ancestry, her mother could speak with Koprowski, who was Polish.
“Before he came, but I used to play pieces for her and she had the best objective criticism. She either got or she didn’t,” Quilico recalls. “She said that sounds a lot like Chopin.”
Of course, Koprowski’s piece is “Rhapsody on a Theme of Brahms”, so Petrowska Quilico shrugged it off.
“My mother chatted with him in Polish, and they’re both looking at me smiling, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no’,” she says. “And then the composer said to me, ‘You know your mom is right, it is Chopin’.”
There are plenty of stories from her past that bubble to the surface, and are pleading to be told. She restrains herself, but remembers the highlights.
She performs one song, “Geste” by her first husband, Brégent, who died at the age of 45.
Cardy and Saint-Marcoux are two other composers, and close friends, who died young.
She falls into a rueful moment, remembering another fallen colleague Jacques Israelievitch, as the two had recorded plenty of sonatas during Fancies and Interludes. More music will be released from the seven and a half hour sit down, which was first launched in June, 2015.
“I was glad to have continued with Mozart,” she said.
She’ll be performing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, which will be another tough moment, as the last time she performed Israelievitch was the concertmaster.
Still, she’s warm in knowing she’s accomplished her homage to some of her friends and past collaborators.
“What I enjoy is doing things by hand. My art is not working with computers, but with hands,” she says. “There needs to be something said about just the purity of music, and just reading a book.”
Piano Animals III : Christina Petrowska Quilico présente Remembering Ann Southam
Les épopées hypnotiques de fils et de canevas d’Ann Southam Glass Houses et Rivers, seront la pièce maîtresse du concert final de notre série. Présentés par la pianiste canadienne Christina Petrowska Quilico dont l’amitié et la collaboration avec Ann Southam est très présente dans leur processus de création, ces oeuvres minimales et complexes mèlent les rythmiques avec une intensité quasi rituelle.
Il n’est généralement point besoin de présenter la pianiste Christina Petrowska Quilico au public canadien comme de l’étranger. Acclamée par le New York Times dès l’âge de 14 ans pour son talent prométhéen lors de ses débuts orchestraux avec Murray Perahia, Christina Petrowska Quilico s’est produite au Carnegie Hall, au Alice Tully Hall ansi qu’au Lincoln Center et au Merkin Hall. Instruite à Juilliard, elle a créé 18 concertos pour piano ainsi que plus de 150 oeuvres. Sa collection de 37 disques inclue huit concertos pour piano, et quatre de ses albums se sont vus nominés aux prix Juno. En 2014 elle a fait partie de la liste des 20 pianistes “à ne pas manquer” de Radio-Canada.
« La musique répétitive et pulsative de Glass Houses est célébrée ici avec un éclat chatoyant, tant par la créatrice que par l’interprète… une offrande musicale respectueuse et lumineuse d’une pianiste à une amie compositrice, et de cette amie à un grand mentor contemporain. » – Frédéric Cardin, espace.mu (Radio-Canada).
Great review of Glass Houses Revisited.
by Grego Applegate Edwards
Ann Southam, Glass Houses Revisited, Christina Petrowska Quilico
The late Ann Southam produced some of the most original and distinctive minimalist music to be heard. On May 22, 2014 here I covered Glass Houses Volume 2, a significant collection of some of her solo piano works performed beautifully by Christina Petrowska Quilico.Thanks to Centrediscs, we can explore the first volume of this collection (Centrediscs 16511) today. It is every bit as worthwhile as the second volume, maybe even more so.
Southam’s solo piano works are like tongue twisters, or learning to rub your stomach and jump up and down at the same time, only a great deal more rewarding in result. That has to do with the rhythmically distinctive contrasts between the left-hand ostinatos and the melodic figurations of the right hand. They mesh in tempo but have often enough the feel of contrasting meters.
Add to that the primal diatonic irresistibility of the right-handed melodic figures, which are rhythmically vibrant and far from banal, but instead memorable in the best ways. When meshed with the swirling ostinato figures the music has the trance magic of the very best minimalist works, yet utterly original, utterly Southam-esque.
This is by no means easy music to play properly, in spite of the diatonics. Christina Petrowska Quilico gives them a combination of legato lyricism and a rhythmic swing that make of the music all it should be.
Volume one covers nine of the “Glass Houses” movements, each one a miniature of happy complexities and lyrical drive. Here is a wonderful place to start if you don’t know Ann Southam’s music. If you already do it is more for you, most dedicatedly performed and exciting as well as reassuring. RIP, Ann Southam. May your music delight our ears in the centuries ahead!
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GLASS HOUSES: Complete collection
“This is nothing short of miraculous…That Petrowska Quilico can perform these nine pieces is an achievement in itself; that it makes for mesmerizing listening is the magic of art.” – John Terauds, Toronto Star
“This is difficult and nuanced music, and Christina Petrowska Quilico is entirely up to the challenge. […] These performances are deeply musical and affecting.” – American Record Guide
Presented together for the first time: Glass Houses Revisited and Glass Houses Vol. 2 together in a box set for the complete collection of Ann Southam’s mammoth “Glass Houses” as performed by virtuoso pianist, Christina Petrowska Quilico.
Ann Southam was a close friend and musical collaborator of Christina Petrowska Quilico for almost 30 years. Petrowska Quilico began performing her music in 1981 and has recorded a number of her major works for piano. Glass Houses Revisited (Centrediscs) was the third collection and the first recording of this cycle and remains Centrediscs’ best-selling CD of all time. It was nominated for a JUNO for Best Classical Composition in 2012. Glass Houses Vol. 2 completes the entire set of “Glass Houses” for Centrediscs.
Passion and sensitivity, phenomenal technique and “dazzling virtuosity” (New York Times) characterize pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, whether she is playing a Liszt piano solo, a Mozart chamber work, the Grieg concerto or the premiere of a new work by a living composer. Her 30-some recorded titles encompass contemporary works by Canadian and International composers as well as standard repertoire.
Born in Winnipeg, Ann Southam (1937-2010) completed musical studies at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory of Music. Southam’s works have been commissioned through the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and continue to be performed in Canada, Europe and the United States. She was honoured with the Order of Canada, and earned a posthumous JUNO nomination for Best Classical Composition in 2012.
Available for purchase through the Canadian Music Centre: