Teenage pi­anist stays grounded de­spite fame

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - GWENDA NEMEROFSKY

JAN Lisiecki is not your av­er­age 18-year-old by any stretch of the imag­i­na­tion. The phe­nom­e­nally tal­ented pi­anist from Cal­gary plays close to 100 con­certs a year world­wide and is a record­ing artist for the renowned Deutsche Gram­mophon la­bel. Lisiecki is supremely mu­si­cal and wows au­di­ences with his tech­ni­cal prow­ess, fresh in­ter­pre­ta­tion and youth­ful charm.

He has re­ceived count­less awards, in­clud­ing, most re­cently, the Leonard Bern­stein Award of the Sch­leswig-Hol­stein Musik Fes­ti­val, where two of Bern­stein’s chil­dren ac­tu­ally pre­sented it to their fa­ther.

Lisiecki will be in Win­nipeg on Sept. 11 to per­form Grieg Pi­ano Con­certo in A mi­nor, Op.16 with the Man­i­toba Cham­ber Orches­tra. He was last here with the MCO in 2011.

It is not just his prodi­gious ac­com­plish­ments that make this teenager spe­cial. I spoke with him on the phone from his Cal­gary home and was im­me­di­ately taken with his self-as­sured­ness, pro­fes­sion­al­ism and in­tel­li­gence. Best of all, he en­joys and ap­pre­ci­ates ev­ery minute of his mu­si­cal ca­reer.

“I never dreamed of be­com­ing a mu­si­cian,” he said. “I wanted to be a doc­tor or a math­e­mati­cian, but it came upon me nat­u­rally and grew grad­u­ally. And I love ev­ery­thing about it — the travel, per­form­ing — I couldn’t imagine a bet­ter life at 18.”

“I love math, but it’s black and white. In mu­sic, there are mil­lions of colours. It’s won­der­ful. It gives you a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on life.”

Lisiecki looks for­ward to work­ing with the MCO, which is con­sid­er­ably smaller than a stan­dard sym­phony orches­tra. “It’s more fun, per­sonal. You can speak with the mu­si­cians and get to know peo­ple. You can com­mu­ni­cate on a dif­fer­ent level.”

He also en­joys the at­mos­phere of the smaller venue, West­min­ster United Church. “It is more in­ti­mate, with the orches­tra and the au­di­ence — you have closer re­la­tions. It works re­ally well for lots of mu­sic and many com­posers wrote mu­sic to be played in small sa­lons. But big halls are fun, too and are grander,” he has­tened to add.

Lisiecki even ad­mit­ted to testing out the seats in halls to ex­pe­ri­ence what the au­di­ence does while they lis­ten.

Many of Lisiecki’s con­certs are sell­outs and this one is get­ting na­tional at­ten­tion — CBC re­cently picked it as No. 11 in its list of most out­stand­ing or­ches­tral con­certs for the 2013-14 sea­son.

With so much suc­cess al­ready un­der his belt, it’s in­spir­ing to know Lisiecki con­tin­ues to hone his craft. He is pur­su­ing his bach­e­lor of mu­sic at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto Wed­nes­day, Sept. 11, 7:30 p.m. West­min­ster United Church un­der the tute­lage of Marc Du­rand. Asked how much time he can de­vote to his stud­ies with his hec­tic per­for­mance and travel sched­ule, Lisiecki was philo­soph­i­cal: “As much as any arts stu­dents. I find the time and squeeze it all in. I like it.”

When­ever he has a three-day stretch without a per­for­mance or re­hearsal, he heads back home to Cal­gary. “Some­times not just the mind, but the body needs a break, and home is al­ways where I can get this,” he said.

His mother trav­els with him and his fa­ther of­ten joins them for con­certs. “If we’re in one place for a while… in a beau­ti­ful city for a few per­for­mances, we go as a fam­ily.”

Plus, the well-spo­ken pi­anist has friends all over the world. “I get along with friends of all ages. Wher­ever I travel there are peo­ple I know and en­joy be­ing with.”

He es­pe­cially en­joyed a trip to Inu­vik last year. A pi­ano was shipped there ex­pressly for his per­for­mance and the au­di­ence, for whom con­certs are a rar­ity, was very wel­com­ing.

“They ap­pre­ci­ated the per­for­mance in a dif­fer­ent way,” Lisiecki said. “I’d like to do more play­ing in the Cana­dian North, in Nu­navut and Yukon.”

Al­ways the diplo­mat, Lisiecki de­murred when asked about in­flu­en­tial teach­ers or mu­si­cians.

“I’ve been play­ing with or­ches­tras since I was 10. I en­joyed per­form­ing with many or­ches­tras and with many con­duc­tors. I get my great­est in­spi­ra­tion through play­ing and from the in­di­vid­ual orches­tra mu­si­cians,” he said.

Lisiecki will speak about the Grieg con­certo with MCO con­duc­tor Anne Manson on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m. at McNally Robin­son.

Tick­ets for Wed­nes­day’s con­cert are $28 for adults, $26 for se­niors and $8 for stu­dents at McNally Robin­son, the West End Cul­tural Cen­tre, Or­ganic Planet and MCO’s Tick­et­line, 204-783-7377.

Lisiecki: ‘mil­lions of colours’

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