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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 4, No. 10

The International Festival of Piano Duos Plays On

by Jacques Desjardins / July 1, 1999

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Next August 18 and 19 the fourth Québec International Festival of Piano Duos will take place at the Centre Pierre-Péladeau's Salle Pierre-Mercure. The Conseil québécois de la musique recognized the Festival's exceptional contribution last November with the Opus Award for the "concert organizer of the year."

Only two concerts will be offered this year, as not all the expected funding was received. "The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec is in the process of restructuring, and financial aid was not given to new applications," explained Dominique Morel, the Festival's chairperson and founder. Still, the Conseil did enable Ms. Morel to travel to Eastern Europe to search out new musicians and repertoire. As well, the Festival obtained a grant from the Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal, and will co-produce its concerts with the Société Radio-Canada.

This year the Festival welcomes two of Russia's greatest piano duos. The opening night concert features a programme of works by Mozart, Weber, Czerny, Schubert and Rachmaninov, played by Alexander Bakhchiev and Elena Sorokina, chairperson of the Russian Association of Piano Duos. Mr Bakhchiev is highly regarded at home, having been praised by no less an authority than the great Sviatoslav Richter. Morel describes him as the exponent of the elegance and refinement of the St Petersburg Conservatory ‹ in the tradition of Anton Rubinstein and Sergei Rachmaninov ‹ as opposed to the more masculine playing of the Moscow school.

The August 19 concert will feature three duos. The Sorokina-Bakhchiev duo will return, alongside the duos of Gennady Pystine and Igor Tsygankov, and the Festival's hosts, Dominique Morel and Douglas Nemish, in a programme devoted to Poulenc and two rare works by Schnittke. The latter will feature I Musici de Montréal (with additional wind instruments) under the baton of Yuli Turovsky. Maestro Turovsky is particularly excited about this opportunity to play with Ms. Sorokina, his former classmate at the conservatory.

Dominique Morel is passionate about the importance of an event devoted to a form of music relatively unknown here, "In Eastern Europe, piano duos are extremely popular. Children begin to play duos at an early age, becoming the leading interpreters of a vast repertory of works that are unjustly neglected here." Her fervent wish is for Montreal to become an essential stop on the long list of piano duo festivals that extend from Talinn, in Estonia, to Oulan-Bator, in Mongolia.

Ms. Morel's plans for the future include a competition, sections devoted to "contemporary music" and "national tendencies," and a resumption of master classes. Given her enthusiasm and commitment, it is clear that only difficulties in fund-raising will check her desire to render "her" festival more dynamic still. Let's hope that next year funding agencies and sponsors will support this unusual event, which seeks to introduce local audiences to hidden musical treasures and musicians of the highest international calibre.

Québec International Festival of Piano Duos, August 18 and 19, 1999, at the Salle Pierre-Mercure of the Centre Pierre-Péladeau, 300 boul. de Maisonneuve Est. Tickets: 514 987-6919.

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