CHRISTINA PETROWSKA QUILICO
Few artists have performed as wide a range of piano concerti to such acclaim as Christina Petrowska Quilico. Her live performances run the gamut from the Bach D minor to the likes of Beethoven’s Emperor, the Grieg, Chopin E minor, Prokofiev, Bartok, and works by living composers. Spain’s Luis de Pablo was so struck with how she played his first concerto that he dedicated his second to her.
Quilico was the natural choice as soloist to perform the Claude Champagne Piano Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Maestro Victor Feldbrill October 21 and 22, as part of the TSO’s Canada Mosaic series.
Her Juilliard training in the grand Russian and European tradition and subsequent studies in Paris and Germany with Stockhausen and Ligeti prepared her to learn and perform even the most challenging music in a short time, making her sought after as an interpreter of a wide range of repertoire. No wonder that CBC Music named her one of 20 Can’t-Miss Classical Pianists of 2014, and in 2015, one of The 25 Best Canadian Classical Pianists – describing her as “a particularly extraordinary sort of musician: one who can meet the ever-mounting technical demands imposed by today’s composers, and who is willing to try things that have never been done before…. possibly the most respected one in Canada.”
The Ottawa-born pianist was only 10 in her orchestral debut, playing the Haydn D major concerto with Toronto’s Conservatory Orchestra and Maestro Ettore Mazzoleni. At 14, co-winning a concerto competition along with Murray Perahia, she played Mozart’s K.488 in New York. The Times hailed her as a “promethean talent”, and in subsequent solo recitals as “an extraordinary talent with phenomenal ability…dazzling virtuosity”, playing “to perfection”.
The 41 works in her repertoire for piano and orchestra include some 20 contemporary concerti she has premiered and/or played, amongst more than 200 new works she has introduced in performances across Canada and the U.S., in Taiwan, the Middle East, France, Germany, Greece and Ukraine. She has collaborated with many of Canada’s leading orchestras, and those of Greek Radio and Taipei, and with such esteemed conductors as John Eliot Gardiner and Bramwell Tovey.
In 2017, she recorded seven Mozart concerti for The Mozart Effect series conducted by Charles Cozens. They complement her discs of eight Canadian works in the genre – three of them nominated for JUNO Awards: the Glenn Buhr, with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bramwell Tovey (CBC Records), Heather Schmidt’s second piano concerto (a CBC commission for her and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony conducted by Daniel Warren, on the Canadian Music Centre’s Centrediscs label – “Making it sound easier than it is, Quilico’s performance is coloristic and well-paced.” – The WholeNote), and Larysa Kuzmenko’s piano concerto (also written for her, and performed with the Toronto Symphony conducted by Jukka-Pekka Saraste, on her 2010 Centrediscs release, 3 Concerti).
Also on 3 Concerti is that of Alexina Louie, with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Alex Pauk. After the live concert, the Toronto Star’s William Littler wrote, “That able champion of the contemporary keyboard literature, Christina Petrowska Quilico, applied the proverbial hammer and tongs to a piano part full of cluster chords, glissandos and runs.”
Among her other recordings with large forces are the Healey Willan concerto, with Victor Feldbrill conducting the Taipei Symphony Orchestra; Violet Archer’s first, with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra under Sir John Eliot Gardiner; and two quite unconventional creations: George Fiala’s Concerto Cantata, with chorus; and David Mott’s Eclipse, written for her, partnered with traditional and world music instruments. It was truly out of this world, making its debut on the Space Shuttle Atlantis with Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean.
Also acclaimed in her solo and chamber repertoire, Quilico has 50 discs of classical, romantic and new music. Her iconic 2011 CD Glass Houses Revisited earned a fourth JUNO nomination. One of Centrediscs’ all-time best sellers, and on the CBC Music list of The 30-best-Canadian-classical-recordings-ever and other best-of lists, it is one of seven CDs that she has devoted to the piano cycles of Ann Southam (1937-2010).
Her commitment to new music compelled reviewer Pamela Margles to marvel in The WholeNote at how Quilico “creates a special kind of pianistic excitement. Her technique is brilliant and her imagination boundless…above all you feel the fierce conviction that underlies her vision of each composer’s score.” Her latest CDs champion the music of women, including her new CD Global Sirens which features composers from around the world.
For her devotion to Canadian composers, she received both the 2007 Friends of Canadian Music Award from the Canadian Music Centre and Canadian League of Composers, and the 2010 Harry Freedman Recording Award, from the CMC’s Harry Freedman Fund.
Quilico performed and recorded as a duo with the late Jacques Israelievitch after his retirement as TSO concertmaster. Their 2015 Centrediscs CD Fancies & Interludes includes music by the TSO’s Composer Advisor Gary Kulesha and former clarinetist Raymond Luedeke. Volume I and 2 of their complete Mozart violin and piano sonatas, on Fleur de Son, launched in 2016 to enthusiastic reviews. The third of five is due out in 2019.
In 2017, Quilico performed the music of Michel-Georges Brégent (her first husband) in the 50th anniversary celebrations of Montreal’s Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec; and launched her Centrediscs Canadian double album, Worlds Apart. She also performed Ann Southam’s Rivers and Glass Houses in Montreal’s La Chapelle de Bon Pasteur.
As a writer and visual artist, Quilico reveals both talents in her book Opera Illustrated: An Artistic Odyssey. She is also author of Mr. Rigoletto: In Conversation with Louis Quilico. (Both titles are issued by Captus Press). She also toured internationally with the late, famed Metropolitan Opera baritone, her second husband; and founded The Christina and Louis Quilico Award to encourage young operatic talent. It is administered by the Ontario Arts Council Foundation, and held under the auspices of the Canadian Opera Company.
She also inspires students as a Full Professor of Piano and Musicology at York University.