Pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico, C.M., OOnt, FRSC
The Canadian Encyclopedia describes Christina Petrowska Quilico as “one of Canada’s most celebrated pianists. Equally adept at Classical, Romantic and contemporary repertoires , she is also a noted champion of Canadian composers. Petrowska Quilico taught piano and musicology at York University from 1987 until 2022, when she was named Professor Emerita, Senior Scholar. She has been appointed to the Order of Canada, the Order of Ontario and the Royal Society of Canada.”
Petrowska Quilico is the recipient of the Friends of Canadian Music Award from the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) and Canadian League of Composers and was selected as one of the CMC’s Ambassadors of Canadian music. She has been on the CBC lists of “20 Can’t-Miss Classical Pianists” and “Canada’s 25 best classical pianists”. She was also a co-winner of the inaugural Harry Freedman Recording Grant Award.
She has received significant recognition for a lifetime devoted to her art. CBC Radio Two named her to the In Concert Hall of Fame, celebrating the greatest Canadian classical musicians of all time, past and present. Quilico has received 3 President’s Esteemed Research Awards in 2021, 2022 and 2023 for Distinguished Honours. When the Order of Canada appointments were announced in 2020, Christina Petrowska Quilico was cited “for her celebrated career as a classical and contemporary pianist, and for championing Canadian music.” Her 2023 schedule attests to this citation, with the launch of two new CDs on the Canadian Music Centre’s Centrediscs label. Shadow & Light: Canadian Double Concertos by Larysa Kuzmenko, Alice Ping Yee Ho and Christos Hatzis, recorded with violinist Marc Djokic and Sinfonia Toronto conducted by Nurhan Arman, . Blaze, featuring solo piano music by Ho, makes its debut in April. The concerto CD is funded by the Ontario Arts Council and FACTOR.
Further recordings are in the works. In fall 2022, Petrowska Quilico received a $30,000 grant from the Canada Council for the Arts for composer Frank Horvat to create More Rivers, a solo piano suite that she will record and tour. Inspired by her three-CD recording of the massive Rivers cycle by Ann Southam, the initiative also involves developing further projects related to music and the environment. Another new CD will feature the premiere of Nocturnes by David Jaeger, which uses several of her own poems as inspiration.
Not to be overlooked are her concerto performances in 2023. On March 25, she gave the Toronto-area premiere of the Piano Concerto in One Movement by African-American composer Florence Price, with the York Chamber Ensemble and Music Director Michael Berec. And on October 21, she performs the Piano Concerto by Polish composer Witold Lutosławski with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra and Maestro Kristian Alexander and Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations.
“The towering Canadian piano virtuoso Christina Petrowska Quilico performs six works on her latest release, Vintage Americana. This absorbing display of musicianship leaves no doubt that she can interpret works from any compositional aesthetic with world-class execution. In her seemingly inexhaustible efforts toward releasing recordings of the highest quality, Petrowska Quilico delivers yet another gift for our ears.” – Adam Scime, The WholeNote
While the Covid 19 lockdowns derailed most live concerts, Petrowska Quilico was garnering kudos for three new CDs she released on the Navona label – Sound Visionaries (French composers Debussy, Messiaen and Pierre Boulez), Retro Americana and Vintage Americana. This last ended 2021 on four best-of lists – The Piano Street Team (one of five Recommended New Piano Albums); Ludwig van.com – Classical Music: Discovering 2021’s Lesser Known Gems (one of eight CDs); CBC Music – Chosen by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation music hosts and producers as one of Canada’s top 21 classical albums of 2021; and Art Music Lounge – “What a Performance!” award as one of the most outstanding recordings of the year. It was also Bronze Medal winner in the classical category of the Global Music Awards.
“All credit to Christina Petrowska Quilico for an intelligent programme…. Quilico’s performance of Synchronism is compelling, the touch and tone of a performance of a 19th-century masterwork applied to this typical piece of 1970s avant-garderie. Listen past the outward stylistic trappings, however, and the poetry in Davidovsky’s writing comes to the fore, more so than in the rival accounts. Her approach pays more obvious dividends in the purely acoustic works, Lowell Liebermann’s four Apparitions (1985) in particular. Quilico’s accounts compare favourably in my view with the composer’s own, available from Steinway Classics…. Challenging repertoire, well worth investigating.” – Guy Rickards, Gramophone,U.K.
FROM THE EARLY DAYS TO THE PRESENT
“An extraordinary talent with phenomenal ability…dazzling virtuosity” – New York Times
Ottawa-born – of mostly Polish ancestry, with ancestors also from Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany and Wales – Christina Petrowska Quilico was only 10 in her orchestral debut, playing the Haydn D major concerto with Toronto’s Conservatory Orchestra. She moved to New York at 13 to study on scholarship at the Juilliard School and the High School of Performing Arts. Her main teacher was the legendary and inspiring Rosina Lhévinne. At 14, sharing top prize with Murray Perahia in a concerto competition, she played Mozart’s K.488 in New York. The Times hailed her as a “promethean talent” and she continued to give solo and chamber recitals at many of the city’s other venerated recital halls including Carnegie and Merkin halls, garnering superlatives from the city’s critics. Allen Hughes of the Times exalted her “beautiful clarity” in Liszt’s dazzling La Campanella, an encore to a program of forward-looking 20th century repertoire, noting that she “is a pianist and musician of refreshingly unconventional taste and ability…a welcome treat.” She appeared in Alice Tully Hall playing Debussy and music by living composers – including her first husband Michel-Georges Brégent (1948-93). In the Times again, Hughes noted that in those years, she “has proved several times over that she is a pianist and musician of more than ordinary attainments”.
She continued her studies in Paris at the Sorbonne, and in Darmstadt and Berlin with Karlheinz Stockhausen and György Ligeti. Pierre Boulez and John Cage coached her in performances of their music.
She has gone on to perform some 50 concertos – many of them premieres – with orchestras in the U.S., Greece, and Taipei, and most of Canada’s leading orchestras. Concerts have taken her across the U.S. and Canada, as well as to Taiwan, the Middle East, France, England, Germany, Greece and Eastern Europe. She has recorded 19 concertos, with 3 Juno nominations for three of the concerto albums.
“Petrowska Quilico manages the technical demands with supreme virtuosity and creates a complex sound tapestry that pays personal tribute to one of Canada’s most engaging musical figures.” – Denise Ball, CBC Music’s Classical/blogs: The 30 Best Canadian Classical Recordings Ever, praising Petrowska Quilico’s Glass Houses Revisited
In recorded output, few artists can match Petrowska Quilico, particularly in the music of her time. Among her 50 plus CDs are solos, chamber works and concertos by contemporary and international composers, many of them women. She also recorded the music of her first husband, the late Michel-Georges Brégent on several CDs; and made four CDs with her second husband, the legendary Metropolitan Opera baritone, Louis Quilico, with whom she toured extensively.
She received a JUNO nomination for Glass Houses Revisited, which is Centrediscs’ all-time best seller. It is one of three cycles and her seven discs of music by the iconic Canadian composer Ann Southam. Her name has become almost synonymous with the composer’s, with performances of Southam’s music in a concert for Montreal’s Innovations en concert, and live with Toronto Dance Theatre in Christopher Houses’s dance work Rivers in Toronto, the National Arts Centre and on an eastern Canada tour. She gave a lecture/performance on Southam at the Royal Academy of Music in London, UK as part of an international symposium on piano.
Petrowska Quilico and Southam shared a love for nature and the environment, which resulted in the double CD album Pond Life. The proceeds from the 2009 launch went to the David Suzuki Foundation, whose namesake wrote, “I have always found it remarkable that some of the first people to lend their support to causes like social justice, peace and the environment have been musicians…. music has a way of cutting through words and barriers to penetrate straight to our hearts. Thank you, Ann and Christina, for using your talents to lift our spirits and touch our souls.”
“This is how this music should be played. There is a feeling of freedom and ebullience in these performances that I attribute mainly to the wonderful Quilico, and she is one of the most satisfying pianists I have heard in this music.” – American Record Guide, reviewing the Mozart Violin and Piano Sonatas 2018 Critics Picks
Her traditional classical CDs include solo albums of Chopin, Liszt, and the tangos of Ernesto Nazareth, Mozart piano concertos; and the complete Mozart violin and piano sonatas, recorded with violinist Jacques Israelievitch.
She has programmed many Canadian works on her tours, including many compositions by women composers. In fact, she has become a leading champion of women composers, devoting 24 of her 50-plus discs to their music, most recently Cup of Sins by Parisa Sabet, Blaze by Alice Ping Yee Ho, Global Sirens (Fleur de Son), and performing numerous concertos by women, among the 50 concertos in her repertoire. Canadian women are featured on her CD 3 Concerti Larysa Kuzmenko, Alexina Louie, Violet Archer(Centrediscs), and Heather Schmidt on the CD Tapestries and 2 more on the upcoming Shadow & Light: Double Concertos.featuring Larysa Kuzmenko and Alice Ping Yee Ho. She has received 3 JUNO nominations for Classical Composition for her recordings with orchestra, the third being CBC Records’ disc Contemporary Piano Concerti, with her performance of Glenn Buhr’s Piano Concerto,
Petrowska Quilico’s recorded performances reach beyond the planet as well. Her CD of David Mott’s world music inspired concerto Eclipse (written for her), debuted in outer space when astronaut Steve MacLean brought it on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2006. He had also taken her recording of Alexina Louie’s Star-Filled Night on his first mission, on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1992.
A visual artist as well, she has painted several of the covers adorning her more recent albums. Her book Opera Illustrated (Captus Press), contains pen-and-ink portraits of operatic celebrities and scenes. She is also author of the book Mr. Rigoletto: In Conversation with Louis Quilico.
A generous benefactor, she created the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards 20 years ago at the Ontario Arts Foundation. It is held every two years in conjunction with the Canadian Opera Company and its Ensemble Studio, to recognize outstanding young Canadian singers.
About the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards
Christina Petrowska Quilico, C.M., OOnt, FRSC, established the Christina and Louis Quilico Fund in 2000 to honour her late husband, renowned baritone Louis Quilico, and to recognize outstanding young singers. During his 45 years on the stage, Louis Quilico shared performing credits with Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Joan Sutherland, and Renata Tebaldi. He was instrumental in furthering the careers of many young singers through his teaching and master classes. The Ontario Arts Foundation manages the endowment that funds the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards.
Winners of the 2023 Christina and Louis Quilico Awards Vocal Competition Announced
Toronto – February 7, 2023 – On Monday, February 6th, the rising stars of the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio, Canada’s premier training program for young opera professionals, competed in the sixth biennial Christina and Louis Quilico Awards, with Midori Marsh claiming the first prize of $6,000. Ariane Cossette won the second prize of $3,500 and Alex Hetherington won the third prize of $2,500. Career development awards of $1,000 each were also presented to Alex Halliday, Queen Hezumuryango and Charlotte Siegel in recognition of the awards’ 20th anniversary. The event took place at the Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
ORDER OF CANADA INVESTITURE – DECEMBER 2022 (Postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic)
Citation as Christina Petrowska Quilico was introduced to the Governor General and assembly:
“Christina Petrowska Quilico has been enchanting audiences with her technique and talent over the last five decades. With more than 50 albums to her credit, this internationally acclaimed pianist and interpreter of both classical and contemporary music is renowned for performing the most challenging music in collaboration with leading orchestras and composers worldwide. A champion of Canadian composers and the music of women, she is also a respected York University professor and mentor to the next generation of artists.”
ORDER OF ONTARIO INVESTITURE OF 2021 APPOINTEES – NOVEMBER 2022
Citation read at the ceremony:
“Celebrated pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico has opened the ears of music lovers through numerous performances of classical and contemporary repertoire with orchestra and as soloist and on over 50 internationally acclaimed recordings with 4 Juno nominations. She has an Order of Canada, Order of Ontario and was inducted as a Fellow into the Royal Society of Canada.
“She is considered one of Canada’s best 25 classical pianists and distinguished for her technical mastery, unique musical interpretations, and an unrelenting promotion of Canadian music. A towering virtuoso who interprets works from any compositional aesthetic with world-class execution, Professor Petrowska Quilico was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
“The New York Times hailed her as a ‘promethean talent’ giving solo and chamber recitals at numerous venerated halls including Carnegie Hall, garnering superlatives from critics deeming her ‘an extraordinary talent with phenomenal ability’.
“Professor Emerita and Senior Scholar of Musicology and Piano at York University, she has received esteemed Research Awards and as a benefactor established The Christina and Louis Quilico Award at the Ontario Arts Foundation and the Canadian Opera Company.”
THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF CANADA:
Being named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, as Christina Petrowska Quilico was in 2021, is to receive the country’s “highest honour an individual can achieve in the Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences.” For the celebration of honourees, held in Calgary in 2022, she presented her short film Transcendent Sound of Nature in the Music of Ann Southam, which included her performing excerpts from Rivers.