Stéphane Lemelin: “Troubadour and magician”
The Washington Post
It’s no surprise that pianist Stéphane Lemelin would choose the title Découvertes (Discoveries) for his critically-acclaimed series of ATMA recordings of lesser-known music by French composers. Lemelin is artistic director of the Découvertes series and performs with Trio Hochelaga, along with violinist Anne Robert and cellist Paul Marleyn. The term applies as much to Lemelin himself, who is intellectually curious, ready to push boundaries and explore corners that others might pass over without noticing the hidden treasures.
Through the Découvertes series, Lemelin has introduced the world to works by Gustave Samazeuilh, Guy Ropartz, Théodore Dubois, Georges Migot, Rhené-Bâton, Manuel Rosenthal and Gabriel Dupont – music that while not part of the canon, is richly rewarding and infused with “finely wrought passion” (Globe and Mail).
Earlier this year, Trio Hochelaga gave what was probably the London premiere performance of the Dubois Piano Quartet at Wigmore Hall. “It was extremely gratifying to witness the enthusiastic response of the audience, which was both delighted to discover something new and shocked that such a great piece could have been neglected all those years”, says Lemelin. A repeat performance of the Dubois Quartet in Leicester more than one hundred years after its composition prompted a critic to declare, “Its neglect is incredible.” (Leicester Mercury)
In March, Lemelin’s agenda includes a tour with stops in Louisiana, Mississippi, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The repertoire? Nothing less than Schubert’s last three sonatas performed on the same programme. “This is probably the repertoire with which I feel the deepest kinship, and playing all three of these masterworks on one program is an incredibly powerful experience”, says Lemelin.
The Mont-Joli, Québec-born musician studied with Karl-Ulrich Schnabel in New York, Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, and of Boris Berman and Claude Frank at Yale University, where he received the Doctor of Musical Arts degree. Lemelin is now Professor of Music at the University of Ottawa, where he is Director of the School of Music.
In addition to his academic activities, recordings and performances, Lemelin is also the artistic director of the Prince Edward County Music Festival in Picton, Ontario. The festival takes place over two weekends in September in a picturesque setting on Lake Ontario, and features the works of a living composer — this year, Steven Gellman — along with works from other eras and genres. 2010 guests include The Alcan String Quartet, soprano Donna Brown, flutist Susan Hoeppner, harpist Judy Loman, violist Aaron Au, violinist Martin Riseley, cellists Paul Marleyn and Margaret Tobolowska, and the Ottawa Brass Quintet.
For virtually all professional musicians today, travel is a fact of life that requires a practical approach. For Lemelin, it means knowing when to let go of the uncontrollable factors can create undue stress before a performance. He has mastered this by cultivating a zen attitude: “Something always happens: flights get delayed, rehearsal arrangements misunderstood, pianos disappoint – in most cases, nothing can be done. One has to learn to let these things flow off one’s back without worrying about them. I’ve learned that you can cultivate a stress-free attitude, though I must admit it’s taken some time!”
By Luisa Trisi