34th International Viola Congress
August 7, 2008
For five days in June (7-11), the viola
community will gather in Montréal for the 34th International Viola
Congress, which celebrates the instrument’s unique voice and cultivates
awareness of its vibrant and varied capabilities. This annual event
presents a forum for exchange, exposure and education, provides access
to resources and information, and offers an occasion to promote everything
This year’s Canadian stop presents
local violists a rare opportunity; last year, it was held in Iceland,
and next year, the community travels to Australia. “Coming to your
first congress is like trying a new fruit,” encourages Congress organizer
Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot. “Once you have tasted it, you will always
As a solo instrument, the viola is underestimated
and is seldom featured in concert programming, making the congress a
rare opportunity to experience this distinctive timbre and repertoire
in concert. New music is featured prominently, with a maximum number
of performances of contemporary and little-known works.
Fostering a supportive environment and
rallying the good-natured team spirit characteristic of violists is
a priority. “The big family feeling is important to the congress,”
asserts Austrian-born Puchhammer-Sédillot. “That’s why violists
are what we are, and that’s what should come first.”
Professor of viola and head of the string
department at the Université de Montréal, with 20-years of North American
teaching and performing experience under her belt, Puchhammer-Sédillot
undertook preparations for this event in 2003. The congress, funded
through registration fees and exposition tables, corporate sponsors
and embassies, relies on performers and presenters to volunteer their
time. The Université de Montréal provides all facilities and
The congress’s theme “Where Europe
and the Americas meet”, grew out of the violist’s desire to bring
together the international viola communities. “This is the first congress
where so many European artists are represented,” she says.
As the host country, Canadian music will
have special prominence. In addition to performances by Canadian
soloists and young professionals, the winners of the Canadian Music
Centre student competition will present their interpretations of Canadian
works for viola. “It is very important for the youth to get interested
in their times.” Puchhammer-Sédillot says.
Montréal-based violists Bojana Milinov
and Elvira Misbachova will perform Canadian viola concertos by Andrew
MacDonald and Airad Ichmourtatov, the viola section of the Montréal
Symphony Orchestra will play and I Musici de Montréal will accompany
soloists Lars Anders Tomter (Norway), Roberto Diaz (USA), Antoine Tamestit
(France) and Steven Dann (Canada) in a gala concerto concert. Puchhammer-Sédillot,
who worked to have women involved at all levels of programming, will
premier three pieces she commissioned from Québec composers Ana Sokolovic,
Isabelle Panneton and Rachel Laurin. “I was interested in the communication
process between women composers and performers,” she explains.
World-class performers Kim Kashkashian,
Michael Kugel and Barbara Westphal will give concerts, as will the latest
international competition winners and soloists from Europe, the United
States, Australia and New Zealand.
Highlighting the viola at its best in
chamber music, the Alcan Quartet will perform with guest violists Bruno
Giuranna and Siegfried Führlinger as well as pianists Jean Saulnier
and Paul Stewart, clarinetist André Moisan and cellist Denis Brott.
Trio Lyra (flute, viola, harp), Quatuor Claudel, and the Alturas Duo
(viola, guitar) will also perform.
Masterclasses on solo repertoire, orchestral
excerpts and improvisation will be given by soloists and pedagogues
from around the world, including Juilliard School professor Heidi Castleman,
who will receive an honorary doctorate from the Université de Montréal
at the congress.
Seminars on performance anxiety, practice
techniques, the Feldenkrais method and osteopathy will take place, as
well as presentations on Bach, Primrose and viola pedagogy in France.
Other events include the opening ceremony and cocktail with music by
violist/composer Martha Mooke and Mads Tolling of the Turtle Island
String Quartet, morning workshops for viola enthusiasts and “Anecdotes
from old times” with viola elders Emanuel Vardi, Bruno Giuranna and
Nearly forty luthiers will exhibit at
the congress, providing an ideal setting to compare and purchase instruments.
Roberto Diaz will demonstrate violas and bows for sale and a panel of
luthiers will discuss issues of viola sound and construction. Rare editions
will be accessible, including Billaudot of France and Doblinger of Austria.
Among recordings available will be Puchhammer-Sédillot’s recent recording
of German Romantic Sonatas.
The 34th International Viola Congress
is cosponsored by the Université de Montréal and the Canadian Viola
Society. Day passes and concert tickets are available as well as complete
congress registration. Full details are available at violacongress2006.ca.