Carnegie Hall is booking quite a few Calgarians these days.
The Music To Your Ears concert season at MRU Conservatory seems to have a few of the same accomplished names listed on the roster. Soundscape Series pianist Jan Lisiecki debuted there in 2016. Now, pianist Colleen Athparia will be playing the famed stage on January 26th, 2017 with her chamber group, Ensemble Resonance.
What’s harmonious about this duet is that Colleen was Jan’s very first piano teacher.
“I remember him playing a Minuet in 4/4 time when he was 5 (years old),” Athparia recalls. A consummate teacher, she adds, “Fortunately, his rhythm has improved since then.”
At 21, Jan is still considered young to have a Juno Award for anything, let alone Classical Album of the Year (2013), which he received in his late teens. He has been a recording artist with Deutsche Grammophon since 2010 with works including Mozart and Chopin. Most recently, he released a compilation of works by Schumann.
The New York Times described Lisiecki as, “A pianist who makes every note count.” He certainly seems to be doing so with a hometown concert at the Bella Concert Hall on January 20th, 2017.
Athparia, who has been teaching piano at MRU Conservatory since 1981, can clearly site the moment she knew that Jan had what it takes to make it in the industry. “I remember him playing a Grade 7 Study when he was about 7 or 8,” she says, “and I’d never heard a study played so musically and effortlessly.”
On the challenging side, “When he was very young, he was often distracted by the squirrels running by the studio window than on his lesson,” she laughs.
A confident soul, Lisiecki was always an innovator. Athparia notes, “Jan was very original when it came to fingering, and he often had strong ideas about his unique fingering, so we had to work things out mutually.”
Whatever the compromise was, it seems to have worked, for Jan Lisiecki has left YYC and seldom looks back.
As for Athparia, she has teamed up with Stan Climie (Bass Clarinet), Steve Lubiarz (Violin) and Michelle Todd (Soprano) to form Ensemble Resonance who, before taking their program to Carnegie Hall, will play as a part of the Salon Series in the TransAlta Pavilion this Saturday, January 14th, 2017. The program is in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday and features works from some of Canada’s leading composers including Harry Somers, Robert Rosen and Juno Award-winner Allan Bell.
But before she gets on the plane to New York, Athparia is planning on being in the audience for Jan’s homecoming performance at the Bella Concert Hall, “I’d love to hear how he’s matured.” Though in her opinion, “He’s always had a natural affinity with Chopin and Mozart,” she says, “I hope he’ll play a surprise- something no-one has heard him play before.”
Time will tell.
If Liseicki is looking for some last minute advice from his very first piano teacher, she says, “I’d tell him the same as if he stepped onto any stage in the world…just enjoy the music.”