LSM Newswire

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Brilliant Canadian pianist Louis Lortie makes his welcome return to Vancouver

The VSO presents distinguished Canadian pianist Louis Lortie, and the exciting music of Liszt and Richard Strauss

Vancouver BC Louis Lortie is praised as one of Canada’s most electrifying pianists. He makes a welcome return to Vancouver on February 21 & 23 performing Liszt’s Totentanz and Fantasy of Motives from Beethoven’s Ruins of Athens. Maestro Bramwell Tovey conducts this concert which also features Beethoven’s The Ruins of Athens: Overture and Richard Strauss’ Also sprach Zarathustra.

Charm and dazzle... (Louis Lortie’s) elegant touch turned the music nearly weightless, even at high volume and high speed.”

- Journal Sentinel

Born in Montréal, Louis Lortie made his debut with the Montréal Symphony at the age of thirteen and the Toronto Symphony three years later. In 1984, he won First Prize in the Busoni Competition and was a prize-winner at the Leeds Competition. In 1992 he was named Officer of the Order of Canada, and received both the Order of Quebec and an honorary doctorate from Laval University. As his schedule permits, he teaches at Italy’s renowned piano institute at Imola. Mr. Lortie has lived in Berlin since 1997 and also has a home in Canada. Mr. Lortie performs the magnificent music of Franz Liszt, he perhaps the greatest pianist who ever lived.

The late-Romantic composer Richard Strauss followed in the footsteps of Liszt. Though he was a prolific composer of opera, Strauss’s greatest works were his tone poems, Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) being prominent among them. The work is based on Nietzsche’s prose poem, a deep and dramatic treatise featuring the teachings and sayings of Zarathustra, the ancient Iranian prophet and religious poet credited with the founding of Zoroastrianism. Strauss’s tone poem has become one of the most recognized pieces of music ever written – or at least, the first few minutes have, being prominently features in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The work, in Strauss’s own words, describes the evolution of humankind: “I meant to convey in music an idea of the evolution of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of development, religious as well as scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the ‘Superman.’” Strauss’s extraordinary and unique orchestration speaks for itself, creating a mystic landscape that speaks of high mythology and profound truths. A fascinating musical construct that figures throughout the work is the conflict between the keys of B Major and C Major, the former representing humanity, the latter the universe. Strauss purposefully leaves this conflict unresolved at the end, with neither key dominant – the classic debate between free will and determinism continues in Strauss’s world, a riddle unsolved and unsolvable.


PricewaterhouseCoopers Masterworks Silver Series:

Fantasies and Odysseys: the Exciting Music of Liszt and Strauss

Saturday & Monday, February 21 & 23, 8pm, Orpheum Theatre

Bramwell Tovey, conductor

Louis Lortie, piano

Beethoven The Ruins of Athens: Overture

Liszt Totentanz

Liszt Fantasy on Motives from Beethoven’s Ruins of Athens

R. Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30

Tickets $25 to $78.50 (Student, Senior and Subscriber discounts available)

Tickets available by phone at 604.876.3434 or online at

Generously Supported By:

Series Sponsor: PricewaterhouseCoopers

Video Screen Sponsor: TELUS

Video screen presentations created and produced by students and staff of digital video productions at Columbia Academy.

CBC Radio 2 will record the concert on February 23 for Sunday Afternoon in Concert



Bramwell Tovey, conductor

A musician of striking versatility, Bramwell Tovey is acknowledged around the world for his artistic depth and his warm, charismatic personality on the podium. Tovey’s career as a conductor is uniquely enhanced by his work as a composer and pianist, lending him a remarkable musical perspective. His tenures as Music Director with the Vancouver Symphony, Luxembourg Philharmonic and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestras have been characterized by his expertise in operatic, choral, British and contemporary repertoire.

The 2007-08 season holds many highlights for Tovey. A recent recording with violinist James Ehnes brought a 2007 Grammy Award to the soloist, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Tovey. In his eighth season with Vancouver, Tovey collaborates with guest artists Ben Heppner and Evelyn Glennie and leads the orchestra through an in-depth six-concert Beethoven festival, featuring performances by Lang Lang and Anne-Sophie Mutter. He also appears with orchestras across East Asia, in the spring of 2008, in advance of the orchestra’s fall 2008 tour of China. Highlights for 2008 in the United States include Tovey’s appointment as Principal Guest Conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. The post, last held by Leonard Slatkin, includes general programming and conducting of Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts in its famed summer venue. Tovey also has been commissioned to write a work for the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonic’s respective 2008 summer seasons.

Prior to his music directorship in Vancouver, Tovey spent twelve years as music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, where he founded its highly regarded New Music Festival. A significant milestone in the ensemble’s exploration of new music, the festival premiered more than 250 works by diverse international and Canadian composers under Tovey’s leadership, with every performance broadcast on Canada’s CBC Radio.

In 2004, he founded the New York Philharmonic’s Summertime Classics series at Avery Fisher Hall, and presides annually as its host and conductor. Chief critic of The New York Times Anthony Tommassini has written, “The New York Philharmonic values the British conductor Bramwell Tovey as the host of its Summertime Classics series not only because he is a good musician, but also because he brings such a delightfully avuncular sense of humor to the job of introducing the pieces on the program.”

During his four years as the music director of the Luxembourg Philharmonic, from 2002 to 2006, Tovey led three successful tours in Europe, the Far East and the eastern United States, traveling to China, Korea, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Holland and Belgium. In 2004, Tovey and the orchestra were awarded the “Orphée d’Or” of the Academie Lyrique Francaise, for their critically praised recording of Jean Cras’ opera, Polyphème. The following year, in celebration of the opening of Luxembourg’s new Philharmonic Hall, Tovey conducted the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra and the Europa Academie Choir in the world premiere of Penderecki’s 8th Symphony, composed especially for the occasion.

An esteemed guest conductor, Tovey has worked with orchestras in the UK and Europe including the London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Bournemouth, the Frankfurt Radio Orchestra, and the North Netherlands Symphony where he will lead the Dutch premiere of Penderecki’s 8th Symphony in 2008. In a review of a performance with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra the Scottish Herald wrote “….he’s a sophisticated entertainer, a refined malt whiskey of a man.….(Tovey) produced polished playing…that is too rare in performances of this music.” In North America, along with his work with the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, Tovey has made guest appearances with the orchestras of St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, Toronto and Montreal. A recent review in The St. Louis Post Dispatch noted “…the orchestra played brilliantly, responding to Tovey’s direction like a well-tuned race car.”

With a profound commitment to new music, Tovey has established himself as a formidable composer. He has been commissioned by the Calgary Opera to compose the company’s third original full-length opera. Written with librettist John Murrell, this work is based on the extraordinary life of Alexander “Sandy” Keith, a notorious 19th century con artist and criminal from Halifax, Nova Scotia. An immense undertaking, the piece will premiere in Calgary in January of 2011. Tovey’s other accomplishments as a composer include receiving the Best Canadian Classical Composition 2003 Juno Award for his Requiem for a Charred Skull, performed and recorded by the Amadeus Choir and the Hannaford Band in Toronto. Tovey has also built a strong reputation as an accomplished jazz pianist with two recordings to his name.

Renowned as a choral conductor, Tovey has performed works ranging from Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 to Bach’s Mass in B Minor. In opera, his repertoire includes works by Puccini, Strauss, Mozart, Menotti, Poulenc, Britten and Stravinsky. In 2004, he premiered a new opera by John Estacio, jointly commissioned by the Banff Centre and the Calgary Opera, which he reprised for the National Arts Centre in Ottawa in 2005.

Tovey has made memorable appearances on television, including two documentaries with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and a 1996 CBC TV broadcast of Victor Davies’ Revelation, a full-length oratorio based on the Book of Revelation, with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. He has also recorded several DVDs, of works including Holst’s The Planets Suite with distinguished guests such as percussionist Evelyn Glennie, among many others.

Awarded numerous honorary degrees, Tovey has received a Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Music in London, honorary Doctorates of Law from the University of Winnipeg, the University of Manitoba and Kwantlen University College, as well as a Fellowship from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1999, he received the M. Joan Chalmers National Award for Artistic Direction, a prestigious Canadian prize awarded to premier artists for outstanding contributions in professional performing arts organizations.

Louis Lortie, piano

Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has been praised for the fresh perspective and individuality he brings to a deliberately broad spectrum of the keyboard canon. He studied in Montréal with Yvonne Hubert (a pupil of French pianist, Alfred Cortot), in Vienna with the Beethoven specialist Dieter Weber, and subsequently with Schnabel disciple Leon Fleisher, among others.

Mr. Lortie has performed the complete works of Ravel in London and Montréal for the BBC and CBC, and is also known for his interpretation of Chopin. Following a recital of Chopin’s complete Etudes in London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Financial Times wrote: “Better Chopin playing than this is not to be heard, not anywhere.” He often performs major contemporary works, recently concentrating on pieces by British composer Thomas Ades.

Also celebrated for his interpretation of works by Beethoven, Mr. Lortie has performed the complete Beethoven sonatas in London’s Wigmore Hall, Toronto’s Ford Center, Berlin Philharmonie, and the Sala Grande del Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. In Berlin, Die Welt called his performances “possibly the most beautiful Beethoven since the times of Wilhelm Kempff.” With the Montreal and Quebec Symphonies, he performed and conducted all five Beethoven Piano Concertos. In the Beethoven Plus Festival, Mr. Lortie performed Beethoven’s 32 sonatas for piano; plus the complete sonatas and trios with violin and cello. He opened the Bonn Beethoven Festival in 2003 playing Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto with Kurt Masur conducting, and since then has established a particularly fruitful partnership with Mr. Masur. They performed together with the New York Philharmonic, and in Paris with the Orchestre National de France. Future plans include concerts together with the San Francisco Symphony and ONF concerts in the UK, and in Vienna.

Over several seasons Mr. Lortie plays and conducts the 27 Mozart Piano Concertos (in combination with conducting various symphonic works by other composers) with the Montreal Symphony, culminating with 3 concerts in May, 2008. Last season he began his multi-concert Wagner/Liszt project at London’s Wigmore Hall, and performed it in Berlin, Milan, Domain Forget, the Weimar Festival, Bordeaux and Warsaw. He also performed his third recital on Carnegie Hall’s Great Artists series. In 2007-2008 Mr. Lortie explores the music of Schumann and Grieg at several summer festivals, both in solo recital and in chamber music concerts. He also performs with the San Francisco Symphony, the City of Birmingham Symphony, the Orchestre National de Paris, the Sydney Symphony, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the Rochester Philharmonic, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Northern Sinfonia. He plays recitals in Philadelphia, Florence, Toronto, Milan, San Francisco, Ottawa and London.

Louis Lortie has performed under the baton of conductors Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Seiji Ozawa, Charles Dutoit, Kurt Sanderling, Neeme Jarvi, Sir Andrew Davis, Wolfgang Sawallisch, and Osmo Vanska. He has also been involved in many chamber music projects, with musicians such as Frank Peter Zimmermann, Leonidas Kavakos, Renaud and Gautier Capucon, Jan Vogler, Augustin Dumay and Gidon Kremer. His regular piano-duo partner is fellow Canadian Helene Mercier, with whom he has made successful recordings on the Chandos label.

Mr. Lortie has made over 30 recordings on the Chandos label, ranging from Mozart to Stravinsky. His recording of Beethoven’s Eroica Variations won the Edison Award, and his disc of Schumann’s Bunte Blatter and other works by Schumann and Brahms was named one of the best CDs of the year by BBC Music Magazine. He has recorded Ravel’s complete works for piano and has almost completed the 32 Beethoven sonatas. His recording of the complete Chopin Etudes, opp. 10 and 25, has been cited by BBC Music Magazine’s special Piano Issue as one of “50 Recordings by Superlative Pianists”. Mr. Lortie’s most recent CD release is the final recording in his three-CD series of Liszt’s complete works for piano and orchestra with the Residentie Orchestra of The Hague. It was immediately named “Editor’s Choice” by Gramophone Magazine. In addition to the current Liszt recordings, other recent releases include To the Distant Beloved, with works by Beethoven, Schumann and Liszt, and Franck’s Symphonic Variations with the BBC Symphony.

Born in Montréal, Louis Lortie made his debut with the Montréal Symphony at the age of thirteen and the Toronto Symphony three years later, which as a result engaged him for a historic tour of the People’s Republic of China and Japan. In 1984, he won First Prize in the Busoni Competition and was a prize-winner at the Leeds Competition. In 1992 he was named Officer of the Order of Canada, and received both the Order of Quebec and an honorary doctorate from Laval University. As his schedule permits, he teaches at Italy’s renowned piano institute at Imola. Mr. Lortie has lived in Berlin since 1997 and also has a home in Canada.

Labels: , ,