Edmonton and area gets a new piano festival


Alberta Pianofest Society presents Festival of Song

A Festival of Song
Alberta Chamberfest
Feb. 23 to 25
Muttart Hall (Alberta College), Julian’s Piano Bar (Chateau Louis Hotel)
Tickets: Single $10 to $15, Adult pass $35, Child pass $15. Cash only at door

Heads up. A new chamber music piano festival has surfaced in Edmonton.

Internationally acclaimed musicians from Edmonton and abroad will tickle the ivories at the inaugural Festival of Song from Feb. 23 to 25. The artists will perform three intimate recitals of “art songs” closing with three master classes on Sunday.

Festival director Jason Cutmore, a former Edmonton classical pianist now residing in New York City, first founded Alberta Pianofest in 2013 as a biennial summer camp at Pigeon Lake for young aspiring pianists.

Alberta Chamberfest’s Festival of Song is an extension of the summer program hosting professional musicians from across North America.

Joining Cutmore is his mentor, St. Albert pianist Michael Massey, soprano Marina De Ratmiroff, pianist Milton Rubén Laufer, and tenor Nils Neubert.

An “art song” is a vocal music composition written for a singer with piano accompaniment. It is part of the classical art music tradition, yet lends itself to a warm, intimate atmosphere.

“Schubert was the progenitor. He made accompaniment an equal part to song and melody. Art song was not just a series of melodies to support lyrics. Art song musicians are integral to the song cycles,” said Cutmore.

The three public recitals, unified by a theme of travel, bring together compositions by Schubert, Britten, Poulenc, Satie, Lecuona and several Spanish composers.

“The first recital is a much needed getaway to Cuba and Spain where for a moment you can imagine palm trees and warm sun,” said Cutmore.

Friday night’s headline recital, Tropical Getaway at Muttart Hall, marks the Canadian debut of Venezuelan-born American soprano Marina De Ratmiroff and her husband Cuban-American pianist Milton Rubén Laufer.

The couple’s repertoire is based on their Hispanic music recording project and Cutmore is excited about opening up new music to audiences.

“Spanish music has been marginalized even though it’s an old tradition. Partly it reflects where money for composers to create came from, but there’s also been a bit of bias historically. Certain periods during the Renaissance there were great outbursts of fantastic Spanish music and in the late 20th century.”

Saturday night features Schubert’s Winter Journey at Muttart Hall. Cutmore with special guest tenor Nils Neubert complete an odyssey across a snowy landscape that is a metaphor for lost love and infidelity.

“Nils is a consummate musician. This is not flashy stuff. Technical ability alone won’t take you there. To pull off music like this with so many spaces and exposed, yet so deep and profound is a challenge for any singer or pianist.”

The 24-song cycle creates a range of colours, silvery runs, and athletic passages.

“In Frozen Tears, one of the cycles, you hear tear drops falling on ice by the way Schubert lays out staccato chords. It’s very illustrative, by the feelings evoked from poetry.”

The last recital, a late-night, cosy cabaret titled “Je te Veux” – An Evening at the Moulin Rouge, takes place on Saturday night at 11 p.m.

The entire coterie of musicians including Michael Massey restores the festival’s upbeat ambience performing British and French cabaret tunes at Julian’s Piano Bar in the Chateau Louis Hotel.

Massey leads the brigade with Benjamin Britten’s bright songs while Laufer throws in a couple of French and Gershwin tunes for variety.

“The reward is commensurate to our risk-taking and willingness to expand our horizons. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard art songs on radio in Edmonton. They’re a special niche and this festival presents the possibility of making new discoveries that should be the emblem for festivals like this.”

For more information visit http://www.albertapianofest.com


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Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.