Music professor and pianist wins inaugural recording award

York music professor and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico has much to celebrate this spring. Just as her latest CD was being released, she received word that she had won the inaugural Harry Freedman Recording Award and an Ontario Arts Council grant to support her next recording project.

3 Concerti, Petrowska Quilico’s 23rd CD and her seventh on the Canadian Music Centre’s (CMC) Centrediscs label, features works for piano and orchestra by Canadian composers Alexina Louie, Larysa Kuzmenko and Violet Archer, all recorded live for broadcast by CBC Radio over the past two decades.

Known internationally as a leading interpreter of contemporary and Canadian music, Petrowska Quilico is also a longtime champion of the works of women composers. She devised her 3 Concerti project for a graduate course in Gender and Performance that she teaches at York.

Right: From left, Christina Petrowska Quilico, Mary Morrison Freedman and Constantine Caravassilis. Photo by Frank Delling.

“I wanted the students to hear the brilliance of Canadian women composers, especially in live performance,” she said. “Thanks to CBC producer David Jaeger, I had recordings of a number of performances where I had premiered concerti written by women. From these, we chose works that all feature a virtuoso piano part, but are very different in compositional style.”

The CD presents Petrowska Quilico as piano soloist in Louie’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Alex Pauk; Archer’s Concerto No.1 for Piano and Orchestra with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra led by John Eliot Gardiner; and Kuzmenko’s Piano Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

The recording can be purchased online through the Canadian Music Centre or via Petrowska Quilico’s Web site.

While 3 Concerti looks back to previously recorded live performances, Petrowska Quilico’s next release, a collaboration with Canadian composer Constantine Caravassilis, will be a two-CD set of all-new studio recordings of Caravassilis’ composition cycles for solo piano, Book of Fantasias and Book of Rhapsodies.

Technically demanding and hugely expressive, the works will put Petrowska Quilico’s virtuosic skill and experience to good use. “Christina’s intent to record these works is a real honour for me,” said Caravassilis. “I have no doubt in my mind that this recording will be a stepping stone in my career.”

Caravassilis was the winner of the 2009 Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music awarded by the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music to a grad student in composition, and a triple gold medallist at the 2006 Vorgos Foudoulis International Composition Competition in Volos, Greece. He has served as composer-in-residence for the University of Manitoba’s Contemporary Opera Lab, Toronto’s Cantabile Chamber Singers, Denmark’s Open Strings Festival and the London Song Festival in the United Kingdom.

Petrowska Quilico and Caravassilis were selected as co-recipients of the first Harry Freedman Recording Award by a national jury assembled from leaders in the Canadian music community. The jury said: “We were very impressed by the quality of the music of this outstanding young composer and by the fact that one of Canada’s finest pianists and interpreters of new music had pledged herself to the proposed project.”

Named in memory of the pioneering Canadian composer, the Harry Freedman Recording Award contributes towards the creative costs associated with making audio recordings of the music of Canadian composers. Currently valued at $1,500, it will be given every two years through the CMC.

Petrowska Quilico and Caravassilis received the award at a public presentation on April 27 at the Soundstreams Virtuoso Vibrations concert at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. Freedman’s widow, Mary Morrison Freedman, a distinguished singer, teacher and member of the Order of Canada, presented the award and congratulated both artists on stage.

This is not the first time Petrowska Quilico has been honoured by the CMC. She was among a select group of Canadian artists featured at the CMC’s 50th anniversary celebration last fall at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, where she performed Glass Houses by Ann Southam. In 2008, she was presented with the CMC’s Friends of Canadian Music Award for her dedication to Canadian contemporary classical music as well as her unwavering support of this country’s composing community.