There is something to be said for a 14 year-old piano virtuoso who has been taking Montreal and beyond by storm. He has been awarded prizes from the Canadian Music Competition and the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition. In 2012, he made his Carnegie Hall début, and in 2013, appeared as soloist with the Orchestre Métropolitain with Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Most recently, he was featured on the Ellen DeGeneres Show as a bright young prodigy who oozes just as much talent as he does charm.
Last night, at Montreal’s beautiful wood-lined Maison Symphonique, jazz great Oliver Jones, Daniel Clarke Bouchard, and Montréal mainstays Eric Lagacé (bass), and Jim Doxas (drums) performed at a special benefit concert for the Montréal International Music Competition (MIMC). The concert marked a day-long break in the competition that picks up again tonight for the final round (June 3rd and 4th).
The concert was set-up in three parts, opening with Bouchard, followed by a series of duets with his mentor Oliver Jones, and ending with the Oliver Jones trio.
Walking on stage with a boyish grin, Daniel Clarke Bouchard sat at the Steinway and wasted no time jumping in to Mozart’s Sonata No. 12 in F major (K. 332). His jocular technique was wild and blurry, and his touch reminiscent of close mentor, Oliver Jones. I’m not sure it was the best approach for Mozart and Schubert, (which followed it), but his charm was so undeniable that the few slipped rhythms and overlooked notes were quickly forgotten.
Between each piece, Bouchard sprung from the piano to stand forthright and bow, which made the lady sitting to my left giggle with delight. She leaned over and whispered, “isn’t he something?”
His playing of Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso, opus 14, written when Mendelssohn was just 15 years-old, was a welcome change of pace. Bouchard’s posture relaxed as he sunk into the plaintive opening chords and seemed to relish in the nostalgic mood.
The highlight of Bouchard’s set was Rachmaninov’s Études-Tableaux No. 7 “Scene at the Fair”. With its rowdy fanfare of opening thirds, Bouchard jumped across the keyboard like an afternoon game of hopscotch.
Things got more interesting once Oliver Jones took the stage for the series of duets with the young piano star. They began with Mozart’s 12 Variations on “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” K. 265, with Jones playing a Jazz-style interpretation and Bouchard handling most of the heavy lifting. It was an interesting take on Mozart, and the two looked like they were in the moment.
During the duets, something happened that I’ve never seen before. Once they started playing, hundreds of people whipped out their iPhones and started snapping pictures like a headless hoard of paparazzi. The stage, a-lit in flashes, didn’t seem to faze Bouchard or Jones. The ushers did their best to quell the amateur photogs by scrambling up and down the narrow isles pleading for them to stop. But the emboldened audience kept taking pictures, and with safety in numbers, and all the ushers could do was look listlessly at the endless flash photography that continued around them.
The night concluded with a short set of jazz standards by Oliver Jones and two astonishing performers Eric Lagacé, and Jim Doxas. It was nice to see Jones bloom in his element. At almost 80 years-old, he shows no signs of slowing down. While they all played well, Jim Doxas was particularly notable with his rendition of a Latin-inspired tune played, not with drum-sticks, but with his hands.
After the concert, Bouchard joined Jones onstage for some parting words about the importance of supporting young talent and endured yet more bows and cheers from the audience. And every time he bowed, the woman seated beside me snickered with delight. It was hard not to leave with a smile on my face.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. MIMC continues with the first of two final rounds, featuring 7:30 p.m.: Alexander Ullman from the United Kingdom performing Tchaïkovsky’s Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. Canada’s own Charles Richard-Hamelin will be performing Rachmaninov’s great Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18. The final contestant is the American pianist, Kate Liu, playing Prokofiev’s Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 16.
Oliver Jones Jazz Trio will be appearing at the Stratford Summer Music Festival on July 19th. Details here.
And if you haven’t had the chance to see him yet, Daniel Clarke Bouchard will also playing works from his CD, Scènes d’Enfants, including: Debussy, Mozart, and Schumann at the Stratford Summer Music Festival on Wednesday, August 6th. More info here.