Just a decade ago, Alexander Weimann could not have imagined where his life would take him over the course of the next ten years. Ending up as the leader of a Canadian West Coast orchestra was not part of his master plan, but that’s exactly what unfolded when he was recently appointed Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra (PBO). Weimann is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading interpreters of Baroque music, and has made a name for himself as a highly sought-after ensemble director, soloist and chamber musician.
The Munich-born harpsichordist followed an eclectic course of studies in everything from medieval Latin and Gregorian chant to theatre and jazz music. By the late 1990s, he was teaching and giving master classes throughout Germany, in Sweden, and at several American and Canadian universities.
So it was fate that brought Weimann to Canada for the first time in 2001 to perform with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra in Toronto. During that same trip, he spent some time in Montreal, where he met Chloe Meyers while recording Handel’s Gloria with soprano Suzie LeBlanc – his ATMA debut CD. “So work brought me here, but then love kept me, because at the recording sessions I met this intriguing violinist who later ended up as my spouse,” he says. Eventually, Weimann traded Berlin for Montreal, where he is based today. By 2008, the couple had two children together, and by spring of 2009, Weimann was appointed to the top artistic position with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra.
Not that Weimann hasn’t been in high demand over the past decade: A frequent soloist with such ensembles as Les Violons du Roy, Les Boréades, Cantus Cölln, Tafelmusik, Freiburger Barockorchester, and the Gesualdo Consort, he was for many years associate conductor of the celebrated opera houses of Amsterdam, Basel and Hamburg. He has also conducted major opera productions for the annual Vancouver Early Music Festival, including Rameau’s Pygmalion.
Weimann has made a total of nine recordings for ATMA, the most recent of which — Bach’s Clavierübung II — gives listeners a taste of his approach to the music of this master. In the coming season, he is slated to record Bach’s St. John Passion for ATMA — one of his dream projects.
Following a five-year immersion in the late 1980s, Weimann recently returned to
jazz piano, recording several CDs and a video for CBC TV Showcase. He sees a strong affinity between baroque music and jazz: “The syntax is so similar, the vocabulary is very different of course, but the grammar is almost the same,” he says. Though choosing favourites is difficult, Weimann names Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Kenny Kirkland, Lyle Mays, Oscar Peterson, and Jason Rebello as high-ranking on his personal list of great jazz pianists.
While the Vancouver-Montreal commute proves to be challenging for Weimann and Meyers (also a member of the PBO), he feels very comfortable in his adopted country. Together, the pair have learned to be very organized and efficient and make the best of their time together as a family. “Sometimes it breaks my heart to leave for an early flight and see my kids still asleep in their beds. Many parents will know this feeling. But then it's amazing to see them coming back from a trip. The old madrigal Anchor che col partire proves to be true.”
A passionate cook, Weimann sees the preparation of a meal for his family as a gesture of love, and the perfect way to end a day. As with music, some of his meals are traditional recipes that are reproduced from memory, while others are created on the spot with a generous dose of improvisation.
A perfect recipe for life, too.
By Luisa Trisi