Calgary Herald

PiAno man

musical sensation wants to grow

- BoB Clark Calgary Herald

Jan Lisiecki may still be a kid, but he’s already his own man. The young Calgary concert pianist, who just turned 16 in March, turned musical heads a few months ago when he was snapped up by Deutsche Grammophon.

Even in a musical genre where early extraordin­ary ability is hardly uncommon, it seemed an unusually bold leap of faith on both sides.

But ask Lisiecki — who performs a benefit recital at Christ Church on Friday — how being on the payroll of one of classical musicdom’s most prestigiou­s record labels has changed his life and he will begin by telling you, “The contract, at least for me at the moment, is just a piece of paper.”

Turns out the real importance for Lisiecki of his flexible five-CD agreement with the German company is the opportunit­y and room it gives him to shop around for the right orchestra to record with — not to mention the right conductor, which in Lisiecki’s lexicon means someone with essential qualities of kindness, honesty and generosity as much as superb musiciansh­ip.

“Through the recordings, I feel I can really grow and develop and learn,” Lisiecki says.

“So I think the recordings are more important than the contract I signed.”

His first project under the DGG imprint will be an album of his two favourite Mozart piano concertos (nos. 20 and 21). But there’s no rush. “No one is really pushing me, so I can take my time, which I’m very happy about — because who likes to be pushed, right?” the pianist says.

More and more in conversati­on with Lisiecki, you get the impression of an artist who, though still very young, has a strong sense of self — of a self, moreover, shaped by the music he plays and clearly loves.

“In music, you can’t really fake anything,” Lisiecki says. “You cannot fake emotions. If you feel one way about the music, and somebody tells you to feel a different way — unless you’re fully convinced, you will not sound convincing to the audience.”

See PIANO, Page E2

Nor truthful, adds Lisiecki, “because music is kind of a very good (study) in honesty.

“You get to feel whether the person is really believing in, and enjoying, what they’re playing, or whether they don’t really connect with that piece.”

Music may be an internatio­nal language, Lisiecki adds, “but at the same time everybody understand­s it very differentl­y.”

Lisiecki’s artistic independen­ce and integrity shines through again when he is reminded that in an earlier interview he stood up for his freedom to maintain musical ties establishe­d when he was much younger — whether his recording company or management (IMG in New York) approved or not.

Taking time out tomorrow, for example, from a busy internatio­nal schedule to play a diverse program of music by Brahms, Rachmanino­ff and many others at a church in Calgary that is trying to raise funds for its new Steinway piano.

“Yes, that’s something I feel very connected to, and important,” Lisiecki says.

“I also feel it’s very important to play for an audience that’s supported me from the beginning.

“The Calgary audience is just full of friends — and I love playing for an audience like that, because it gives me lots of pleasure.”

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