Asiko Afrobeat Ensemble. Photo by Dominic Ali2019 marks an interesting anniversary for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival. A mere three years ago, in 2016, the TJF looked much different than it will this year, or even than it did in 2017, when it first made the move from Nathan Phillips Square to Yorkville.

Of the many changes that took place between 2016 and 2017, there are three that seem most significant. The first: instead of anchoring the outdoor festivities around large, ticketed tent shows, the TJF’s outdoor shows would be free, and would, for the most part, feature local or up-and-coming acts. The second: by moving from Nathan Phillips Square to Yorkville, the TJF sought to integrate itself within a pre-existing commercial (and residential) area that is largely pedestrian, automatically expanding the potential attendance pool of the free outdoor shows to people who just happen to find themselves in the area, and making it easy for festival veterans to “make a day of it.” (One could, of course, wander around Nathan Phillips Square, but it was hard to find a passable beer, a cup of coffee, or even, say, a salad on the premises. Even the most ardent jazz fan found it tough to do a whole day at the festival as it existed at NPS.) And the third: the TJF would discontinue the longstanding practice of automatically including all of Toronto’s jazz (and jazz-adjacent) clubs in TJF materials, with no input as to those clubs’ programming and no real control over attendee experience, reducing the breadth of the festival’s offerings in order to focus on depth.

Personally speaking, while I was out of town touring for most of the TJF’s inaugural Yorkville run in 2017, last year I had the opportunity to both play in the festival (on an outdoor stage on Cumberland, as well as indoors at The Pilot) and to attend a variety of shows, including Dan Weiss’ Starebaby group, a ticketed event at The Rex, Savion Glover and Marcus Gilmore’s duo show at Koerner Hall, also ticketed, and a healthy number of free shows that took place at (mostly) outdoor stages. (For those with an interest in last year’s TJF, please visit The WholeNote website to check out the pieces I wrote.) As a performer and as a spectator, I genuinely enjoyed myself; though it lacked the large open space of NPS, the area’s village-esque qualities ended up lending themselves well to a multi-stage set-up with staggered set times. It felt, as I wrote last year, festive, for the first time in my experience of a jazz festival in Toronto.

Josh Grossman. Photo by Marie ByersIn mid-May, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Josh Grossman, the Artistic Director of Toronto Downtown Jazz (the organization that administers and runs the TD Toronto Jazz Festival) to talk about these relatively recent large-scale changes to the TJF’s format, the unique aspects of this year’s festival, and the TJF’s future in its new home.

In order for a festival to feel immersive, a sense of momentum must be cultivated within the grounds, Grossman says. Audiences should be able to move naturally from one event to the next, without ever feeling as though they’re waiting around with nothing to see. When Grossman looked at other jazz festivals, such as Ottawa or Montreal, or even other festivals within the city, including those that occur at Harbourfront Centre, he took note of the way in which there were events “happening all the time on multiple stages,” which he felt the TJF “couldn’t ever get at Nathan Phillips Square.” One of the biggest problems? The “relatively strict sound restrictions in place” at NPS, owing to its proximity to City Hall and to the courts, which, as Grossman told me, also made the development of any serious sense of momentum difficult.

Mounting frustrations with the festival’s old location coincided with the appointment of Howard Kerbel as Downtown Toronto Jazz’s new CEO in 2016. Kerbel – who was previously a member of the Toronto International Film Festival’s leadership team, and had, according to Grossman, “fond memories of how TIFF ran in Yorkville,” before its move to King Street and the TIFF Bell Lightbox facility – helped to initiate the move away from NPS at a time when there was a dearth of multi-day festival activity in Yorkville. Finding the business community and local leadership amenable to the idea of the TJF in Yorkville, the timing was right for Toronto Downtown Jazz to make the move.

One of the best parts of the TJF, in its current iteration, is the proliferation of free outdoor stages. Beyond helping to fulfil a vision of a festival with porous borders, the free stages have tended to skew local and young-ish in their programming. This is, of course, helpful for musicians at an early or intermediate stage in their own career development, but it is also helpful for the TJF, which is still focused on its own long-term growth. A combination of sponsorship and operational funding from municipal, provincial, and federal levels of government allow the TJF to pay for its approximately 170 free shows; making these shows as accessible as possible to the general public. It also helps with fundraising and development, Grossman says, “making it easy for potential sponsors and donors to come down, get a feel for the place, and say ‘this is something we’d like to support’.’”

The drastic reduction in the number of clubs included in TJF programming has not been without its detractors. In the wake of the 2017 festival, club owners to whom I spoke mentioned that being excluded from the festival’s promotional materials had resulted in a definite dip in attendance during the period, as compared to the previous years. In the research process for this article, I spoke to (and emailed) a number of musicians who had played at the TJF in the last two years – i.e. in the festival’s current format – and asked them about their experiences, both as performers and attendees. The responses were fairly consistent: while musicians like the idea of integrating a greater number of clubs into the festival, it doesn’t necessarily follow that having more clubs participating will automatically make the TJF experience better; there is something to be said for the community-building power of geographical proximity, and the possibility that a festival may cease to feel like a festival if the majority of its offerings take place at discrete locations at various points throughout a city.

When I asked Grossman about the club situation, he touched on the same points, as well as what for him was the primary issue: that Toronto Downtown Jazz wasn’t actually programming the clubs, had no overview over their operational standards, and had no control over attendee experience at events that were explicitly being advertised as TJF events. Moreover, the festival was doing this promotion for free, and, in some cases, club shows “would be up against events that the festival had “programmed directly,” creating odd conflicts of interest. Another major issue that Grossman touched on: musician pay. The TJF works to pay “at the very minimum, the Toronto Musician Association’s recommended rates.” Again, stressing that all clubs operate differently, Grossman pointed out that “when a musician would go in to play” a venue that had a “pass-the-hat” payment arrangement, it would get very tricky to say “this is an official festival show.”

This is not to say, of course, that there are no clubs involved in the TJF; there are a handful, including a number of venues adjacent to the Yorkville festival grounds, such as Sassafraz, the Gatsby bar at the Windsor Arms Hotel, and Proof Bar at the Intercontinental Hotel, the latter of which will host the nightly jam. As it did last year, the Home Smith Bar at The Old Mill will represent the TJF’s furthest-flung outpost, with four nights of vocal jazz performances hosted by Heather Bambrick. In the downtown core, The Rex will again function as a major festival hub, and will feature major artists such as David Binney, Donny McCaslin and Chris Potter. Grossman tells me that the TJF and The Rex have a “co-curatorial relationship;” throughout the booking process they go back and forth, working through any questions about which artists will work best in which setting. “What we end up with,” he says, “is a lineup on our stage that [The Rex] is cool with, and a lineup on The Rex stage that we’re cool with.” Issues concerning pay, marketing and promotion are all covered in “a very strict venue agreement,” resulting in all parties being comfortable and mutually invested in a positive outcome. And, as Grossman puts it, if it’s possible to develop similar relationships with other clubs that can provide complementary programming to the TJF’s other venues, it’s probably “the way forward.”

Five years from now? Grossman returns to the move from NPS to Yorkville. “The goal with moving to Yorkville,” he says, “was to refresh the festival, change things up, a little bit, but also to create an environment in which people” – attendees, sponsors, artists – “can come and get excited about what we’re doing, see that we’re trying to build this thing, and get on board.” Fundamentally, he says, all of the Yorkville activity will remain more or less the same, because “that’s the vibe” they’re looking for. When asked about what’s missing, he let on that he’d been in preliminary talks with the University of Toronto about space to accommodate a large stage, a marquee venue at which 10,000 or so people could watch major artists perform. I asked if he maybe had a place like King’s College Circle in mind, but I was wrong. “Varsity Stadium,” he answered. “But,” he added wryly, “I think that’s very challenging, for any number of reasons.”

And so, on its third anniversary in Yorkville, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival seems confident, self-assured, but also duly concerned with the necessity for future growth. Beyond the improved attendee experience, it is this potential for growth that seems most exciting about the festival, and which illustrates one of the less obvious outcomes of its exit from its old location in Nathan Phillips Square: by narrowing its scope and reinventing itself as a leaner, more focused festival, the TJF has given itself the space to better manage its own development. Through this process, it has quickly (re-)established itself as part of Toronto’s cultural landscape. As to the future, we’ll have to wait and see.

This year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival runs from June 21 to 30. For details visit torontojazz.com.

Colin Story is a jazz guitarist, writer and teacher based in Toronto. He can be reached at www.colinstory.com, on Instagram and on Twitter.

James Campbell. Photo by Mark RashThe first-ever concert of the Festival of the Sound was held on August 5, 1979 in a Parry Sound school gymnasium under the direction of pianist Anton Kuerti. The summer of 1980 marked the first full-fledged festival under the FTOS name, with Kuerti as artistic director. In 1985, James Campbell began his tenure as the Festival’s second artistic director, a position he still holds today.

I caught up with Campbell in mid-May, via an exchange of emails.

WN: To jog your memory, last time we spoke (briefly) was Feb 4 last year after a New Music Concerts’ Land’s End Ensemble concert at Gallery 345 in Toronto where you played the Schoenberg Kammersymphonie Op.9 (Quintet version), with Lands End and Bob Aitken, flute. I said something about getting in touch with you about the 2018 Festival of the Sound, and you replied along the lines of “Great, but why don’t we wait for next year’s 40th anniversary version.” So here we are!

You said in your previous email that you were at Munich airport en route to Prague for a week of recording. Can you say more about that?

JC: We’ve just finished. It’s a recording with the Prague Philharmonic of Allan Gilliland’s Dreaming of the Masters, a work commissioned by the Edmonton Symphony for the orchestra and me in 2005. It has had quite a run; I even performed it twice with the Boston Pops in Symphony Hall, Boston. It is a cross-over work in the style of three great jazz clarinetists: Benny Goodman, Acker Bilk and Buddy de Franco. The CD will be released next April.

I notice you are using your indiana.edu email address, but I don’t know whether you are still mainly at the Jacobs School. I seem to have noticed your name cropping up at University of Toronto more frequently this past year or so (masterclasses, etc) but maybe it’s just that I have noticed more?

I have just left IU after 31 wonderful years, but please don’t say “retiring,” because I will still be very active playing, giving masterclasses worldwide, and being artistic director at Festival of the Sound. Carol and I are looking forward to spending a lot more time in Canada. And yes, you have seen my name at U of T more frequently; I have been a visiting artist there two to four times a year for the last few years, something I enjoy.

Everything else notwithstanding, I’d say that your 35-year role at Festival of the Sound is the one that most WholeNote readers associate you with. How big of a piece of the pie is it? 

It is one of the three “jobs” I have had for the last three decades: professor, performer and artistic director. FOTS takes a lot of energy and time, but has been a passion of mine.

“Recurring cast of characters” is a phrase that comes to mind when I look at the artists you’ve attracted to FOTS over the years, albeit always with interesting “first timers.” There must be something in the formula that works, for your audiences, and maybe more importantly for the musicians themselves.

This might be better explained in a conversation, but I’ll see what I can do here. I believe there is difference between a music festival and a music series. A series, by definition and necessity, hires pre-formed groups or packages. Although some festivals run this way and it works for them, the FOTS is what I like to think of as a creative festival. Musicians come together to share the stage with friends and colleagues they may not interact with during the winter months. I make up the programs in consultation with the musicians and the concerts are prepared on site. Musicians get to play works they may not get to tackle in a busy concert season and the audience hears programs that can be done only once, at FOTS. Most artists stay in Parry Sound for three to six days and during this time a sense of camaraderie develops, adding to the spontaneous music making and fun that is central (I think) to a summer festival.

The core artists (of which there are now many) are those who love this kind of interaction and risk-taking, and because many return on a regular basis (as you have noticed) feel a sense of belonging and ownership. This adds to the comfortable, relaxed atmosphere FOTS is proud to foster.

The cross-genre aspect of the festival is one of the things that stands out. How much of that comes from the fact that you yourself love crossing those lines as a musician? How much of the curating at this point comes from artists knowing what pushes your buttons, and how much is you doing the matchmaking? 

I do almost all the matchmaking but do consider every pitch thrown my way by artists. I also get a lot of ideas sent to me by agents and organizations worldwide. I enjoy gently pushing some artists out of their comfort zones, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Our audience understands this to be part of what we do and enjoys hearing musicians trying something new, which makes our stage a safe place for musicians to stretch a bit. I certainly appreciate it as a musician. Being allowed to make mistakes has helped me grow in so many different ways.

This is great, thank you! Last word to you?

If I may wax philosophical for a moment, then: I am sometimes asked why I have remained with FOTS for so long and have indeed had other informal “offers.” I could have climbed various administrative ladders in Canada but there has always been something very special about the relationship of classical chamber music and Parry Sound that I have never experienced in all my travels.

I am very grateful to Anton Kuerti for asking me to take over from him 35 years ago. He, and a wonderfully tenacious group of volunteers, did most of the heavy lifting. That tenacity remains strong to this day, making my job simply to keep an artistic focus that is worthy of the energy and passion of the local community.

When all is said and done, everything we do comes down to that moment when artist and listener are joined in a moment of communal focus on a timeless masterpiece and life is made better. As artistic director, feeling I may have helped that moment happen gives me a wonderful sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

It is all about building relationships: artist to artist, artist to board members, artist to audience members, audience members to each other, artists and audience members to the local community. These take time to build, but once established can last a long time. When I find musicians who connect with all these elements I try to help build those bonds. We have found that this connection has helped us through the inevitable ups and downs of our history. We are now the second largest economic generator in the community – the Island Queen is the first! 

Janet LopinskiThe clock is ticking down to the 18th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw in October 2020, and the Fifth Canadian Chopin Piano Competition and Festival – August 23 to 29, 2019 at the Royal Conservatory of Music – offers an interesting stepping stone on one path to the Warsaw event. Presented by the Canadian Chopin Society, the Festival part of the event celebrates Chopin’s legacy with a series of concerts, workshops and performance classes, highlighted by a solo recital by Polish-Canadian pianist Krzysztof Jablonski, third-place laureate at the 11th Chopin Piano Competition in 1985.

But the cornerstone of the week is the Competition, divided into Junior and Senior sections. The top three Senior finishers will travel to Warsaw in the fall of 2020, guaranteed a spot in the 18th Chopin Piano Competition. Second-prize winner Tony Yike Yang, in the Fourth Canadian Competition (2014), became the youngest laureate (at age 16) in the history of the International Chopin Competition in 2015, winning the Fifth Prize. (By coincidence, Yang’s teacher, Vietnamese-Canadian DangThai Son, had finished first in the 1980 International Competition.) Now pursuing a dual degree in economics and piano performance through the Harvard University-New England Conservatory of Music Joint-Degree Program, Yang’s recent accolades include being awarded the Jury Discretionary Award at the 15th Van Cliburn International Competition in 2017, where (at 18) he was the youngest competitor.

To learn more about the Chopin Competition and Festival I corresponded with Janet Lopinski, senior director of academic programs at The Royal Conservatory, and founder and artistic director of the Canadian Chopin Society. She was appointed artistic director of the Canadian Chopin Competition in 2008. By 2010, the 200th anniversary of Chopin’s birth, a year that saw the presentation of the Competition Winners Concert in Koerner Hall, it was clear that there was an appetite for a permanent Chopin Society. With strong support of the Polish Canadian community, particularly the Maximilian Kolbe Foundation, the Canadian Chopin Society (CCS) was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity in 2012. Its mission: “to celebrate the legacy of Fryderyk Chopin by promoting his music while nurturing the development of young artists.”

A full-blown Festival and Competition such as this one is presented every five years, in preparation for the prestigious International Fryderyk Chopin Competition, Lopinski informed me. In the years between, the Society presents concerts, workshops, lectures and masterclasses, and provides performance and scholarship opportunities for young Canadian pianists. Lopinski herself has performed as soloist and collaborative pianist, and has presented lectures, workshops and masterclasses across North America.

The relationship between the CCS and the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Poland has evolved over the past decade, Lopinski said. Since 2000, the cost for the top prize winners’ travel to Poland has been covered. “We have also made it a point to include Polish pianists on our jury,” she added. As well, Lopinski was invited to participate in the first Chopin Competitions Conference, organized by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute. “The success of Tony Yike Yang certainly brought great visibility for the CCS,” she said.

At that 2015 conference there were 15 Chopin Competitions from around the world represented. Lopinski credits the Chopin Foundation of the USA with being both an inspiration and a model for the Canadian event. Other competitions whose winners may be accepted directly to the Warsaw Preliminary Round include those based in Darmstadt, Moscow, Beijing and Tokyo.

The Chopin Piano Competition is open to talented Canadian pianists up to age 29 who wish to further their performance skills and in particular, their playing of the works of Fryderyk Chopin. Application deadline was May 31, several days after our summer issue went to press. More information on the event and its participants can be found at canadianchopinsociety.com. The Senior competitors will participate in Preliminary, Semi Final, and Final rounds, performing selected works by Chopin, and will be adjudicated by a panel of respected Chopin experts. All competition stages are open to the public. Preliminary rounds will be held in Mazzoleni Hall; the finals will take place in Koerner Hall with the finalists performing Chopin Concertos with the Tokai String Quartet.

Krzysztof Jablonski chairs the jury comprised of U of T piano pedagogue Midori Koga, South African native Anton Nel (a familiar face at Glenn Gould School masterclasses), Irish pianist John O’Conor (another GGS faculty member and masterclass participant), and Juilliard faculty member Golda Vainberg-Tatz.

Mazzoleni Hall will also be the site of three special events: “Insights” – an evening with Alan Walker, author of the acclaimed biography, Fryderyk Chopin: Life and Times; “Conversations” – an evening with the competition jury, providing the opportunity to hear their thoughts on music-making, competitions, and careers in music; and “Portraits” – a glimpse into three stages of Chopin’s life through letters and music.

“Once the applications for the competition have been received, and the schedule finalized we will also be announcing additional masterclasses and performance showcases, to provide opportunities for pianists not entered in the competition to be a part of the Festival,” Lopinski said. “Please check our website (canadianchopinsociety.com) after June 10 for these updates,” she added.

I asked what she considered her proudest achievement as artistic director and she told me that founding the CCS and providing leadership for its development has “brought the opportunity to combine several things that are very important to me: my Polish heritage, my love for music, and my commitment to music education. . . Certainly witnessing the success of Tony Yike Yang at the International Competition in 2015, and observing his transition from student to young artist has been incredibly gratifying and inspiring.” 

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

Gemma New. Photo by Anthony ChangOne of the best things to come out of this wretched humanity of ours, Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde is always worth highlighting when spotted in concert announcements. A very good edition of Toronto Summer Music Festival is in the offing this year – check out our website for concert reports during summer – and will, on August 1, present the chamberized Das Lied at Koerner Hall in the Schoenberg/Riehn arrangement. Mezzo Rihab Chaieb and tenor Mario Bahg will sing. Conducting: the young, and already highly in demand across North America, Gemma New, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra’s music director.

I took an express bus to Hamilton recently to catch the last HPO mainstage concert of the season, a program of Vivier’s Orion and Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. New and HPO’s executive director Diana Weir took a substantial bit of time to address the audience in the FirstOntario Concert Hall and talk of all the civic partnerships developed around that particular concert. There was a small crowd of students on the balcony thanks to the HPO’s Adopt-a-School program, and representatives from mental health and the healthcare sector marking Canadian Mental Health Week. The HPO seemed extremely proud of its multiple connections to its city and the province, and eager to deepen and multiply them. What New tells me when I phone her the week after for an interview confirms this.

“Our audience is almost always full capacity,” she says on the phone from San Diego, where she was conducting that week. “What we’re doing in Hamilton seems to bring more and more for our budget every year, so we are actually growing as an organization. I think that we found a way to connect with the community and that’s one of the things that have helped the HPO grow.” Programming is of course crucial, she says, and also how that programming is delivered. “Being able to program concerts that can relate to those who know a ton about music and to those who are coming first time. Making sure that programs are well paced. Making sure the experience is great for musicians too and with enough rehearsal time. Planning a season and having a look at partnerships and community collaborations. Being able to talk about music! This is a skill that conductors are increasingly in need of, so we can advocate not only for our orchestra and musicians but also the program itself. And finally being very involved in education – especially with the schools not having so much funding these days for music education. It’s the orchestra’s job to bring young people to this art form and get them to feel welcome in the concert hall.”

New is also experimenting with the concert format at the HPO. Away from the main stage, Intimate & Immersive is a chamber music concert series with HPO musicians that takes the audience to less typical concert spaces and seats them next to and around the orchestra. “There’s always a part of the audience that wants something a little bit more relaxed and intimate and maybe even more involved than the traditional concert. They want to be able to move around and mingle and get to know the music in a more casual environment. That’s what we’ve been doing with the I & I. We wanted to create an ambience that’s more like a place you go to for a good drink and meet new people and a have good night out.” The audience also has a chance to talk to the musicians before, during and after, in time segments reserved for that. “Everyone sits very close together. The orchestra is in the middle, and the seats are all the way around the orchestra. We encourage everyone to move seats for the second half.” A visual artist is engaged every time to create the lights or video that fit the program. “Next to last time we also had smells and things that you can touch of different substances that evoked for the audience the idea of paradise,” says New. The last one this season, on May 23 at the Cotton Factory in Hamilton, was programmed around the beat and pulse, with an all-contemporary composer lineup.

I ask her about the stamina needed to conduct Mahler symphonies. “I run quite a lot. I find that helps. If I can run 40 minutes straight, that usually means I won’t lose my breath during a Mahler symphony,” she says.” And just rehearsing it as well. The amount of emotional drama that the piece provides and the excitement of it, the powerful sound that everyone is giving – it’s all very motivating, and I feel energized by it.” The Lied von der Erde at TSM will be the chamber version. Does her approach to conducting differ depending on whether she is before a chamber orchestra versus a big symphonic crowd? “Yes, I approach an orchestra in a way that will make most sense to them. For a small orchestra, like the one I conducted recently in Santa Fe, New Mexico, we were doing Beethoven’s Second Symphony and that’s a much smaller environment. You don’t need to give a big gesture, you can be more subtle. It really depends on what I’m hearing and what message I want to give. For the Mahler Fifth, it is a massive orchestra and the sound is so powerful and loud at places, but also other times it’s incredibly soft and close-knit and subtle. You have to show that gamut in your physical expression as a conductor.”

Of Das Lied von der Erde itself, which New covered during her tenure as an assistant conductor of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, she says: “I fell in love with it. It was such a personal work for Mahler. It’s sad to think that he didn’t hear it in his lifetime.”

Are there any composers that she’d like to advocate for in her programming? “Claude Vivier,” she says. “He is a favourite. His music is so intense and clear. It’s really got something that moves many of us. I’d like to do more of his music in the future.” She’s also enjoyed playing pieces by Abigail Richardson-Schulte, the HPO’s resident composer: “Her compositions are positive energy!”

What about the standard rep? I have the impression, I tell her, that my home symphony, the TSO, never plays enough French music. “There could be practical reasons for that,” says New. “Ravel often needs six or eight percussionists. I find, especially with the regional orchestras when we plan our seasons, that that’s often a challenge. And the works are shorter. But Ravel is one of my favourite composers of all time. We’re doing Daphnis et Chloé in September, and just did Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun and Nocturnes in March. Every time I plan the season I look at what HPO’s done since 2002 – I have that much information going back – and think that French music is something that we want to do more. Many orchestras do La mer, that one is probably the most popular, but what about Alborada del gracioso or La valse? I’d love to do La valse.”

We too would love to hear that, and we’ll be there when she does. Whether it’s with the TSO or the HPO, just a Presto tap away. 

Lydia Perović is an arts journalist in Toronto.

Charles Richard-Hamelin. Photo by Elizabeth DelageWN: In addition to your concert on July 19 at this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival, you have the honour of mentoring Fellows of the TSM Academy. Why is mentoring so crucial?

CR-H: In my student years, I attended many summer programs which I now realize were as important to my education as my university studies. Especially the chamber music programs, since they feel very close to the professional world: you have to very quickly get along with other players and be ready to give up some of your preconceived notions and be open to learn from others. Experience is something that demands to be shared and passed on, and I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to do that at the TSM Academy.

What is the most important thing a mentor can do? Please tell us about a memorable experience you had as a student with a mentor.

Inspiration. A great mentor, over a very brief period of time, can make you love the music you’re playing to a point where you don’t want to stop working until you’ve done justice to it. I’ve had many encounters like this, but most notably was getting working with Máté Szűcs in Denmark (at the Thy Chamber Music Festival) who was the Berlin Philharmonic principal viola for many years. He was extremely inspiring in his musicianship and in how he was able to communicate that love for the music.

What is the first piece of music you fell in love with? What musicians inspired you in your student days?

It’s hard to find a single piece, but I remember being obsessed with Chopin’s Four Ballades as a teenager, especially Krystian Zimerman’s recording of them. I remember not having a single clue in how he was able to make the piano sound like this and in how music can be so emotional and powerful. Later, I became obsessed with Radu Lupu’s recordings, all of them. To this day, his interpretations are the golden standard for me: everything he does is considered, impeccably balanced, yet completely in the moment and free as a bird. I also heard him live a few times and I always left the hall transformed. A truly magical artist.

I’m looking forward to hearing the Brahms First Piano Quartet with you and members of the Dover Quartet. Have you played with them before?

I have not, but I’ve heard them live a couple years ago with André Laplante in the Schumann Piano Quintet in Montréal. I was very moved and impressed by them and I really look forward to working with them.

How has your approach to Chopin’s Andante spianato et grande polonaise brillante evolved over the years?

It is actually a relatively new addition to my repertoire! However, the musical language of the young Chopin, which I’m used to playing quite a lot (the two Concertos, the Rondo Op.16, etc) is very much there in this piece too. It is especially inspired music, with very memorable themes and melodies everywhere, even in all the transitions.

Paul Ennis is the managing editor of The WholeNote.

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