This past July was the fifith edition of Pianestival, an organization created by Julien Kurtz and Dominique Xardel of France, to promote prizewinners of amateur piano competitions from around the world. There is not a shortage of incredible musicians who, at some point in their life, made a difficult decision to pursue a career outside of music. As a member of this group I am fortunate enough to live out my musical dreams without sacrificing my professional life. Below is a photo with the organizers after the first edition of the festival in Paris.
The pianists in this group are all friends too, which makes for a nice reunion each summer. I had the privilege to invite two of my closest friends from Saskatoon to play in a trio with me. Carman Rabuka is a dentist who plays the cello and Luke Hnenny is a violinist now completing his residency in neurosurgery. We had thought of forming a trio for years but only now did the dream come to fruition. After little deliberation, the trio’s name became “The Hemostatics”. We had one preparatory concert in Marysburg, Saskatchewan before making our official debut. Besides being class musicians, these guys are great buddies and were a blast to travel with. In good Saskatchewan-fashion, they quickly befriended everyone in the festival and were great ambassadors.
Nice was beautiful in so many ways. The weather was consistently perfect both day and night. In fact, most nights we would head to the Mediterranean Sea for a dip. It became apparent to me why so many of the greatest artists would live in the French Riviera.
The conservatory where the festival was taking place was also a great venue. My first concert day involved a 2-piano event. I played Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations with Ronal Potts from Portland, USA. We basically started working on the piece as a duo only one day before the performance. It was almost like a professional-like atmosphere with last-minute rehearsals and changes. In the end it was an energy-packed performance and well-received. I also had a chance to reunite with my duo partner, Christopher Shih from Ellicott City, USA. We had last played the Poulenc Double Concerto in Boston two years ago. This time it was the Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas. Both performances went well and the audience was very appreciative. I have admired Chris in so many ways. He is a successful gastroenterologist with a loving family and musical talent to boot. It is always a special moment when we get to play together. If you haven’t heard this guy, check him out below.
The trio followed a few days later, with Schumann’s Phantasiestucke Op. 88 and the Shostakovich Piano Trio. It was an honour to share the stage with such wonderful musicians and friends from my hometown. We were so excited to represent Saskatoon in France. For the Schumann piece we were very nervous, partly due to the fact that we had not performed together before. The nervous energy was a positive type and so I was extremely happy with our performance, and the audience felt the energy throughout. The Shostakovich was simply a treat to play. If you have time be sure to check this piece out. Luke told me he still felt the adrenaline rushing hours after the performance.
Hopefully we will have a chance to return to beautiful Nice again. Perhaps the festival for 2011…see you there!
His Liszt had all the bravura and beauty you could hope for, and his Dutilleux was pure rock and roll.Erica Worth, Chief Editor of Pianist Magazine