Two of each:
by Sybille Forster-Rentmeister
Those of us who crave art in its purest essence to enhance our lives, to enrich it with truth and beauty, search forever for communication that reaches deep into our souls.
Music has always been any societyís tool to sway public opinion, to set the mood and the stage for many important world events. This reality hands a lot of responsibility to our artistic organisations as well as the individual artistic talent. In the age of electronic communication news travels fast and wide and there is little we cannot find out about anything. For an artist to be famous or at least well known is easier now than it has ever been. (And just as easily an artist can get into disrepute, just because someone did not like something about him or her.)
Canada has a multitude of artists, in fact it seems sometimes that we have more artists then anywhere else. It is a dense field and to make it in this country or anywhere else takes a lot of dedication. It certainly helps if one has parents with a musical tradition.
"No self-respecting Viennese family was without music," said famed piano virtuoso Anton Kuerti during an interview with Echo Germanica, just after a rehearsal with full orchestra and Music Director Designate for the Toronto Symphony Peter Oundjian.
The Kuerti family had to leave Vienna in 1938, when he was just a baby. But music never left his life, not when he lived for a while in London, England, or in Istanbul with his mother, who had managed to get a teacherís position in botany there. His father, a nuclear physicist with a letter of recommendation from Albert Einstein, opted to go to America to establish himself and the family there. But that would take a while. He ended up in Rochester, leaving nuclear physics behind and making famous inroads in to the field of aviation, even co-authoring a definitive book on the theory of flight.
The family soon joined him and Anton was only 4 and a half years old when he asked his nursery teacher for piano lessons without consulting his parents. He added the violin when he was 9.
It seemed to have been the right decisions. His talent and discipline advanced him very fast and at the tender age of 11 he already performed the Grieg Concerto with the Boston Pops under Arthur Fiedler.
Still a student he won many honours in 1957, like the famous Leventritt Award, the prestigious Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Prize, and he debuted with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. He spent half his life in the Untied States but has made his home since then in Canada, where he is much revered. He has played with every professional orchestra in the country in 150 communities and over 35 concerts with the TSO alone.
Anton Kuerti has given concerts in 31 countries all over the world, also in East Germany, namely with Kurt Mazur.
He has won many honours and doctorates and founded the Festival of the Sound. His family is also involved in music. His wife is Kristine Bogyo, cellist and director of Mooredale Concerts, one son is conductor Julian Kuerti, who just premiered Haydnís comic opera La Fedelta Premiata in Toronto to very good critiques.
His repertoire is vast, including all Beethoven concertos and sonatas, most of them recorded, and he also has a set of 6 CDs to his name with Schubert sonatas.
He would love to work more with the music of Schuhmann, whom he finds most spontaneous but also bizarre, as in red-hot musical integrity. He thinks that Haydn does not receive as much importance as he should. "He really should to be added to the 3 giants Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, and I would love to record 6 Haydn Sonatas," he answers when asked what else is on his future wish list. "He is as wonderful as Mozart. In fact, sometimes it can hardly be distinguished whether it is Haydn or Mozart," he feels.
We talked about life and the fact that he was involved in politics. He feels that Canadians deserve to be represented right across the board, meaning that there should be housewives and musicians, as well as lawyers and scientists and business people in government. But his first love is and always will be music.
Already during the rehearsal it became apparent that he has much to offer. Patiently he repeated needed passages of Beethovenís Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37, finding the perfect timing with the orchestra, setting ideal accents. The concerts on the two following days proved to be everything that was hoped for. Maestro Oundjian as the great collaborator had created a cohesive unity, a perfect weaving of musical tapestry and Anton Kuerti was as brilliant as always. He had told me that it is a continuous effort because staying in touch with the vibrations is impossible on the piano. To sustain anything one has to fight and work for it. He manages to do that with an unusual intensity. It is as though he and the piano enter into a symbiosis. The emotional impact is grandiose and immediate. His life has prepared him for strong communication.
"Today everything is about technical perfection," he says. Not his cup of tea it seems, not when that is all there is. We understand. One can only go so far on technology and technique and then, when the music does not communicate to the people and does not translate into an emotional impact, the music dies on the stage it is performed. There is no danger of that happening as long as Anton Kuerti and artists like him perform on the concert stages of the world.
Does he have a social conscience, we asked? "Can you have an artistic one if you do not have a social one?" was the answer.
We knew it all along: Two hands, one piano and two consciences!
The rest of the concert was just as exciting. It opened strikingly with the national anthem and continued with Rossiniís overture to La gazza ladra, a flamboyant piece of musical tour de force. Then Anton Kuerti played the Beethoven Concerto and after the intermission Ravelís Pictures of a Gallery spilled over the audience in all its glory.
For concert information of the Toronto Symphony visit www.tso.ca .
For a report on The Canadian Opera Season and an update on the new building project go to www.echoworld.com.
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