Between 1994 and 2004 a collective of six of Canada’s finest pianists known as Piano Six performed in small communities throughout this country’s most remote regions, reaching over 100,000 people. This highly worthwhile outreach program, updated for a new generation of music lovers is poised to roll out a second time with a new group of pianists and an updated name: Piano Six: The Next Generation.
Masterminded and coordinated by Vienna-based, Canadian pianist Daniel Wnukowski (pronounced vnoo-koff’-skee), The Next Generation is a positive example of what goes around comes around. At age 18, in 1999, Wnukowski was able to participate in Janina Fialkowska’s free master class when she performed and taught in Windsor, Ontario as part of the first Piano Six program.
“In just one lesson, I received important artistic insights handed down directly from Arthur Rubinstein — ideas that have never left me to this day” says Wnukowski of the experience for which he is still grateful. Like him, the other five pianists — Marika Bournaki, David Jalbert, Angela Park, Ian Parker, and Anastasia Rizikov, are all eager to “give back to the country that nurtured them as artists,” according to Wnukowski.
It’s hard to think of another group of six equally astounding pianists, except possibly the original Piano Six: Janina Fialkowska, Angela Cheng, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Angela Hewitt, Andre Laplante and Jon Kimura Parker.
Like the first generation, Piano Six will perform in school gymnasiums, churches, restaurants, town halls, community centres and other venues in municipalities such as Red Lake, Ontario (population 5000) and Behchoko, Nunavut, on the top tip of Great Slave Lake. At each location, they will also offer other outreach activities including master classes. A new direction will be including as many Canadian compositions as possible, especially by living and emerging composers. This includes composers who celebrate Indigenous folk music by integrating First Nations musical themes into their work in a respectful fashion.
I’ve been a fan of Wnukowski’s since I heard him perform at the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. I was particularly impressed by his commitment to reviving works of exiled Jewish composers of the 20th-century including Wladyslaw Szpilman, Alfred Schnittke, Josef Koffler and others. I was also lucky enough to learn from David Jalbert when he taught at the Toronto Summer Music Festival Community Academy in 2016. This makes me rather envious of the 2828 folks in Princeton BC and the other communities who will be lucky enough to be on the destination list.
Fortunately Piano Six: The Next Generation plans to include some urban destinations on their tour. They will be giving a gala concert in Toronto later next year. Before then, Torontonians can hear Rizikov play on March 17 at Robert Lowrey’s piano store. You can sign up for announcements on their website www.pianosix.com.