Lunenburg Nova Scotia. March 31 to April 2
Since it opened in 2009, Koerner Hall has attracted many world-class musicians to its stage, in part because of the beauty of its design and superb acoustics and in part, according to Mervon Mehta, because Toronto audiences have a good reputation. “They really listen in Toronto,” Andras Schiff was quoted as saying to Mehta. Torontonians have reason to be proud of the venue they have created and support, and of the conduct that elite musicians welcome.
But so far, this has not been enough to attract the performer who is described as “the greatest living pianist”, Martha Argerich. Instead, she recently chose to make an appearance at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance last week, where she attended two masterclasses for six exceptional young pianists, gave a public rehearsal, and a gala concert.
What drew her there, according to one of those six exceptional pianists, U of T Faculty of Music DMA candidate David Potvin, was not the beauty of the venue or the caliber of the audience, but friendship.
“Walter Delahunt, the director of the piano program at LAMP, was staying at the same hotel as Argerich many years ago. Being a night owl, Delahunt had stocked up on breakfast food so he didn’t have to rush to the continental breakfast offered early in the morning at the hotel. When he discovered that Argerich also retired late and missed breakfast, he offered to share his provisions with her. They’ve been friends ever since,” Potvin recounted to me on return to Toronto. “That spirit of friendship spread to the entire group, and we had a week of hard work balanced by great camaraderie.”
Potvin and another Toronto pianist, Geoffrey Conquer, a student at the Glenn Gould School, attended a master class with Walter Delahunt every afternoon, and rehearsed every morning. Argerich arrived part way through the week, and sat in on the master classes, but did not formally teach. Conferring with Delahunt, she made sparing comments, which were appreciative and supportive according to Potvin, to whom she said “Bravo” after his performance of Images Book 1 by Debussy. She paid Geoffrey Conquer the compliment of asking him what his fingering was for a passage from Estampes. Aside from being flattering, she displayed one of the traits of the true master musician — an unflagging interest in the details of execution. Another one of those traits — extreme industriousness — was evident at the rehearsal of Argerich and Delahunt, which was scheduled for one hour and lasted for four, as the two pianists worked through the four hand selections of Mozart, Brahms, Shostakovich and Ravel.
Potvin, who will be giving a noon recital at St Andrew’s Church on April 21, hails from Nova Scotia, as does Walter Delahunt, who was born in Wolfville. Three Haligonian high school students also played for Argerich. The other pianists came from Vienna, New York, Amsterdam and Newfoundland by way of Azerbaijan.
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