TheWholeNote Worlds Apart Review

02 Worlds Apart

Worlds Apart
Christina Petrowska Quilico
Centrediscs CMCCD 23717

This album can be purchased here.

Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico unleashes the eight works here with such immediacy that she creates a special kind of pianistic excitement. Her technique is brilliant, and her imagination boundless. But it’s not just the thrill of the keyboard that drives her – above all you feel the fierce conviction that underlies her vision of each composer’s score.

This is the latest release in Petrowska Quilico’s ongoing recording project covering works from the Canadian piano repertoire. It’s as though she’s out to singlehandedly show just how rich it is. These works were written during a period of just over 20 years, from 1969 to 1992. They all, more or less directly, invoke historical sources – musical, literary or visual.

Peter Paul Koprowski’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Brahms and Steven Gellman’s Fantasia on a Theme of Robert Schumann take full advantage of Petrowska Quilico’s virtuosity. Koprowski gives the elements of Brahms’ Lullaby a Chopinesque treatment, only gradually revealing the familiar theme, while Gellman introduces his theme, from the slow movement of Schumann’s Piano Quintet, then lavishes embellishments.

In Las Meninas, John Rea follows the structure of his source, Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood. But he filters it through his viewing of Velázquez’s iconic, complex painting, Las Meninas by recasting Schumann’s 13 movements in various composers’ styles – Romanticism, impressionism, minimalism, jazz, and so on. Petrowska Quilico has a field day.

Her energy infuses Patrick Cardy’s mythologically based The Masks of Astarte with narrative force. In contrast, her incisive control allows a sense of space to envelop Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux’s lyrical yet monumental Assemblages like a multidimensional sculpture (I thought of Anthony Caro’s works currently on display at the AGO).

In Quivi Sospiri by David Jaeger (who produced this set, and whose writings appear in this magazine), Petrowska Quilico is joined by computer-generated sounds. The rhapsodic yearnings of the piano confront the ominous electronics, then blend in a moving evocation of the sounds that swirl around the hopeless souls condemned to darkness in Dante’s Inferno.

Diana McIntosh’s atmospheric Worlds Apart, which gives this collection its title, weaves a shimmering fabric of intricate patterns. But it’s Geste by Michel-Georges Brégent, Petrowska Quilico’s first husband, who died in 1993, that forms the spiritual heart of this set – especially in the way he invites the performer’s interventions in shaping what happens and when. Brégent’s own description likens his score, mounted on a scroll, to a Calder mobile. In PQ’s hands the sense of urgency never lets up, even in the contemplative passages.

This set certainly showcases Petrowska Quilico’s talents, including her talent as a painter. The painting by her on the booklet cover, called Other Worlds – Light and Dark, beautifully sets the tone for this terrific collection.

Remembering Jacques Israelievitch

jacques

Much has been written about Jacques Israelievitch and his remarkable career since his untimely death on September 5, 2015. Instead of repeating his extensive biography, I want to write about him from the heart, as a dear friend and esteemed colleague. His wonderful qualities as a kind, gentle and spiritual man made him an extraordinary musician and artist. He was a loving and devoted husband, father and grandfather.

I loved the way he called his wife, Gabrielle, “angel” and held her hand. I loved the way he beamed with pride when speaking about his three sons and two grandchildren. I loved the way he cared about his students, musical friends and artists. I loved the way he Skyped his mother in France almost every time we rehearsed. I loved the way he always encouraged, supported and inspired me during concerts and recording.

As a musician, Jacques was always “on.” When we met to sight-read for fun, he expected concert tempo. Every rehearsal and performance was expected to be at the highest artistic level. He knew when to push and be demanding as a concertmaster, soloist, collaborator and conductor. He was just as critical of himself, always expecting as much from himself as from others. I was fortunate enough to have also been soloist in two piano concerti with Jacques conducting. It was his strength, leadership, warmth and camaraderie that elevated all the performers.

What really made Jacques unique and stand out in my memory in these last few months, while facing such devastating illness, was his ability to continue performing at such an unbelievable level. We were in the midst of giving concerts and recording the complete Mozart violin and piano sonatas, all 28 of them, at York, when he learned about his illness. It didn’t stop him. We also released a CD of Canadian repertoire on Centrediscs, Fancies and Interludes, which we had recorded live in one take a few years earlier. We gave a performance of selected works from the CD for the launch party on June 11 at the Canadian Music Centre. This was one of his last performances. Jacques had wanted to perform as much as possible in the last months. In spite of pain, Jacques never complained, never questioned, and made sure that every rehearsal, every concert was the best musical experience we could have.

Both of us were mad for Mozart and wanted to enjoy every opportunity to make music. He didn’t even complain when the piano in a concert hall was digital. He said that we would concentrate on the marvellous Mozart. He told me, and his family, that this was the happiest summer of his life. He savoured every note, every phrase that he played. Jacques also made sure to play chamber music with as many friends as he could. He never lost his sense of humour, and our rehearsals were filled with joy and fun. If either of us made a mistake, we would laugh. He was never judgmental and we were both open to trying out new musical ideas. Never one to gossip, he still did enjoy a good story. During breaks, we would take turns venting or trading jokes. In spite of the extreme pain and fatigue, he insisted on finishing our marathon of recordings and our mood was bittersweet when we finished. He kept asking me to record more, even a few days before his death. He called this project our Mount Everest. What a gift and legacy these recordings will be. We played the sonatas with love and affection for Mozart, who has been in our souls and heart throughout. I couldn’t have asked for a better musical partner or colleague. He cherished every musical line and nuance of the sonatas. It was inspired playing. Jacques and I appeared together July 11 at Chautauqua, performing the last four Mozart sonatas. Nobody realized that this would be his final concert. The experience was magical. His playing was moving, heartfelt, strong and always honest and true to the score.

It was so difficult to say goodbye to such a dear friend. Gradually, a sense of joy returned, as I became overwhelmed with the beauty of the music and Jacques’ extraordinary playing. I realize now that we will never really lose him. His artistry and musicianship will live forever in his recordings and our memories of the wonderful person that was Jacques Israelievitch.

His friend,

Christina Petrowska Quilico

Also published here by The WholeNote.

Fancies and Interludes – Christina Petrowska Quilico; Jacques Israelievitch – Canadian Music Centre Review

Fancies and Interludes

Fancies and Interludes is both a labour of love and musical declaration, intuited and played by two ingenious and accomplished musicians – former Toronto Symphony concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico. Recorded live at York University’s Tribute Communities Recital Hall, it has the immediacy and the vigour of a live performance (background sounds of pages being turned included), which makes the music come alive with the splendour of the excitement (or the sorrow) of each precious phrase as it was played in the moment…”

Purchase Fancies and Interludes

See the full review here.