Biography

CHRISTINA PETROWSKA QUILICO

In 2020, Canada’s Governor General named pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico to the Order of Canada, citing her “for her celebrated career as a classical and contemporary pianist, and for championing Canadian music”. In 2021 she was also named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the country’s “highest honour an individual can achieve in the Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences.”

Just in 2021 alone, she has received other 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.  At York University, where she is a Full Professor, she was one of the esteemed winners of the university’s annual research awards in 2021 – after having been selected as a 2020 York Research Leader.

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 live concerts were mostly put on hold because of the Covid 19 lockdowns, 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 AmericanaThis 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 (CBC) 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.

She 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 greatest classical pianists”.

Ottawa-born – of mostly Polish ancestry, with ancestors also from Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Germany, Wales and Russia – 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 when she was 13 to study on scholarship at the Juilliard School and the High School of Performing Arts.  Her main teacher was the legendary 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, who deemed her “an extraordinary talent with phenomenal ability…dazzling virtuosity”, playing Olivier Messiaen “to perfection”. 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 took part in the 2018 festival celebrating Frederic Rzewski’s 80th birthday at Brooklyn’s Spectrum, and continues to include American music in her CDs and solo recitals.  She has also studied in Paris at the Sorbonne, and in Darmstadt and Berlin with Karlheinz Stockhausen and György Ligeti.

She went on to perform 45 concertos with orchestras in the U.S., Greece, and Taipei, and with 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.  Photo of Christina Petrowska Quilico with the Order of Canada

In recorded output, few artists can match Petrowska Quilico, particularly in the music of her time. Among her 50 plus CDs are eight piano concertos on five albums, and solo and chamber works by contemporary and international composers, many women composers among them. She also recorded the music of her first husband, the late Michel-Georges Brégent on several CDs; and four CDs with her second husband, the legendary Metropolitan Opera baritone Louis Quilico, with whom she toured extensively. Four of her CDs have earned JUNO Awards nominations, three of them for concerto CDs, and one for Glass Houses Revisited by Ann Southam, which is Centrediscs’ all-time best seller and was named one of “30 best Canadian classical recordings ever” by CBC Music.

She has recorded five titles, of music by Ann Southam, comprising seven discs, all on the Centrediscs label.  She performed 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 tour in eastern Canada. She gave a lecture/performance on Southam at the Royal Academy of Music in London, UK as part of an international symposium on piano.

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. American Record Guide wrote, “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.”

A visual artist as well, she has painted several of the covers adorning her more recent albums.

She is also a generous benefactor, who created the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards at the Ontario Arts Foundation, held every two years with the Canadian Opera Company.