—Journal de Genève
An exhilarating and elegant concert pianist, Louise Bessette is recognized internationally as one of today’s pre-eminent interpreters of the music of our time. Possessing a unique combination of eclectic repertory and impeccable delivery, Bessette has been hailed as “a 20th-century specialist of penetrating insight and unerring technique” (The Gazette, Montreal) and is praised by critics for her “playing of genuine grandeur” as well as “astonishing reserves of controlled, relaxed virtuosity” (The Music Times, London).
Louise Bessette is the recent winner of two prestigious prizes from Le Conseil québécois de la musique. In January, the pianist was declared the winner of the Prix Opus for “Concert of the Year–Montreal” as well as “Concert of the Year–Modern and Contemporary” for her extraordinary 30-year Career Celebration of last March, presented by Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ), in collaboration with Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur. The multi-faceted three-part concert included four world premieres written for the occasion, along with music by her signature composer, Olivier Messiaen.
Louise Bessette performs regularly in concert halls throughout Europe, Asia, North and Central America. Most recently she garnered rave reviews for solo recitals in Oxford and Nottingham (UK). Her artistry can be heard on over twenty recordings across ten labels, including the new ATMA release of works by Alfred Schnittke. Bessette has performed almost 40 world premieres, including many works written expressly for her, among them works by Canadian composers Serge Arcuri, Serge Provost, Raoul Sosa, and André Villeneuve, and French composers Bruno Ducol, Jacques Lejeune and Claude Ballif. This spring, Bessette offers a musical tribute to Gilles Tremblay, presented by Toronto’s New Music Concerts.
Bessette has been particularly admired for her interpretations of the music of Olivier Messiaen, as proclaimed by the Journal de Genève: “In Louise Bessette, Messiaen has found his most inspired modern-day interpreter, undoubtedly for many years to come.” In 2008, the centenary of the composer’s birth, she created Automne Messiaen, a festival in Montreal featuring over 50 events. The seminal event was recognized with a Prix Opus as “Musical Event of the Year,” naming Bessette herself as “Performer of the Year.” Her recordings of works by Messiaen have been equally acclaimed. Le Devoir praised the “sensuality of sounds” on her recording of Messiaen’s Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus for the ATMA Classique label, stating that Bessette “continually amazes with the beauty of these creations.” Reviewing her recording of Messiaen’s Les oiseaux on the Analekta label, Gramophone magazine enthused “Bessette walks your ears inside the moving cogs of Messiaen’s mosaic structure, where many pianists merely float them along its surface … this performance has a rare depth of aural perspective.”
Internationally, Louise Bessette has performed as soloist with Orchestre national de Lyon, Orchestre philharmonique de Radio-France, Denmark’s Århus Symphony Orchestra, Poland’s Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, and the New York Chamber Symphony along with concerts in Strasbourg, Grenoble, Copenhagen, Huddersfield (UK), Warsaw, Mexico City and at Shanghai’s International Piano Festival. Closer to home, Bessette has been a frequent guest of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre symphonique de Québec, as well as Quebec’s Festival International de Lanaudière and Domaine Forget. Her varied recording projects include chamber music collaborations with such artists as Angèle Dubeau, Marc-André Hamelin, Quatuor Alcan, and the London-based Arditti Quartet. A versatile artist, her discography includes a collaboration with flautist Lise Daoust, Rhythm ’n flute, featuring works by Joplin, pieces drawn from Latin-American folklore and a sonata specially composed for the duo by jazz pianist Lorraine Desmarais; and Tango Diablo! featuring tangos for solo piano by Piazzolla, Sosa, Stravinsky and others. Louise Bessette can also be heard performing music by Charles-Valentin Alkan and by Edvard Grieg on the score for the recently released film Mères et filles (Hidden Diary) by the French film director Julie Lopes-Curval and starring Catherine Deneuve.
Born in Montréal, Louise Bessette began studying piano at the age of five. Following her studies at the Montréal Conservatory with Georges Savaria and Raoul Sosa, and in New York with Eugene List, Bessette set her sights on Paris where her mentors included Yvonne Loriod, Claude Helffer, Jay Gottlieb and Dominique Merlet. Her early career was launched by winning such prestigious honours as First Prize at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Canadian Music Competition (1981), First Prize at the Concours International de Musique Contemporaine in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (France, 1986), and both the First Prize and the Special Prize for Piano at the International Gaudeamus Competition (Rotterdam, 1989). More recent honours include Woman of the Year at the Montréal Salon de la Femme, and with the Flandre-Québec Award in recognition of her contribution to contemporary music. Louise Bessette is a Member of the Order of Canada, and Officier of the Ordre national du Québec.
Louise lives in Montreal where she is Professor of piano at the Montreal Conservatory of Music. When not at the piano, she may be found cycling, practicing Tai Chi, or backpacking across Asia with her husband and son, a young cellist.
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