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This has been quite a concert season for piano lovers in Toronto. Here is a partial list of some of the outstanding pianists who have appeared on Toronto stages over this past winter: Lang Lang, Yuja Wang, Janina Fialkowska, Danny Driver, Stefano Bollani, Denis Kzhukhin, Jon Kimura Parker, Till Fellner, Lucas Geniušas, Stewart Goodyear, Sean Chen, Emanuel Ax, Charles Richard-Hamelin, Jan Lisiecki, András Schiff, and Marc-André Hamelin. Now we can add Louis Lortie to that incredible list.
None on the list has offered more poetry in their playing than did Louis Lortie yesterday at Koerner Hall when he performed a program of Chopin’s 12 Études Op. 10, 12 Études Op. 25 and 24 Préludes Op. 28. His performance was beautifully nuanced dynamically, rhythmically, and with a singing tone that resonated throughout the acoustics of this wonderful hall. Shaping each of Chopin’s melodic phrases as only Lortie can, he imparted many with liberal and insightful doses of rubato.
In this concert, the Études and Préludes were more than individual or distinctly separate pieces of music. Lortie moved from one étude or prélude to the next creating a whole within each set. Much as a series of short vignettes can combine to create a powerful drama, Lortie created a unified piece out of each work. Transporting the listener through countless emotional highs and lows, Chopin’s personal passionate journey encompassing love and loss were all made evident in Lortie’s playing. He said goodnight to the audience in his encore with the dreamily sublime Nocturne in D Flat Op. 27 No. 2 by Chopin. This was indeed the piano recital of the season!
One member of the audience commented that having originally seen an all-Chopin program didn’t initially thrill her, but after hearing it in the hands of such a masterful pianist, it was brilliant! Another audience member, Sae Yoon Chon, a prize-winner in the recent Seoul International Piano Competition, said he could hardly believe that anyone could perform such a program so flawlessly.
Lortie, who has been known for his Chopin interpretations for years, comes by his affinity to the composer through some very close associations, as Rick Phillips mentioned in his pre-concert talk. Lortie’s teacher Yvonne Hubert was a student of the famed Alfred Cortot who himself was a student of Emile Deccombe, one of Chopin’s students. This lineage going back to Chopin, separated by only 3 directly related musical descendants has given Lortie the rare opportunity to know Chopin’s music like few others possibly could. And it shows!
At 58 years of age, the French Canadian pianist has garnered international acclaim and domestic pride throughout his career performing with virtually every major orchestra throughout the world. He has recorded forty-five CDs for the Chandos label including the complete Beethoven Sonatas. He is in the midst of recording the complete piano music of Chopin for Chandos. Currently he is in on a whirlwind tour that includes stops this month in Atlanta, Montreal, Toronto, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, London and California. Next season he will be the Artist-in-Residence of the Shanghai Symphony which will involve three different residency periods, plus a tour including performances in Tibet. It is little wonder that this concert, his fourth appearance at Koerner Hall, was a complete sell-out.
Outstanding French Canadian artists will again be on stage this week at Koerner Hall when Les Violins du Roy with counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky and Associate Conductor Mathieu Lussier will perform a program of Baroque music on Thursday April 13th at 8:00pm.
Next year's Koerner Hall concert series includes pianists Angela Hewitt, Beatrice Rana, Yuja Wang, and the piano duo Katia and Marielle Labѐque.
Louis Lortie shows his poetic mastery of Chopin in his Koerner Hall concert!
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON April 10 2017
Pianist Louis Lortie