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Pianist William Aide performs Mozart’s last piano concerto

by Anne Bergstrom

William Aide

Do you know where the Porcupine is? I don’t mean the critter with the sharp quills. It’s a geographical place in Canada. Half-way between Toronto and James Bay, where gold mines used to thrive, it is the big town of Timmins and the smaller towns around it. Pianist William Aide once thought of billing himself as “The greatest pianist ever produced by the Porcupine,” but decided people wouldn’t know what he was talking about. However, he did call his autobiography Starting from Porcupine, a title making one want to know more.

William Aide will be here as soloist with the PEI Symphony for its Classical Masterworks program, conducted by James Mark, on Sunday, March 26 at 2:30 pm. Aide’s interesting career started in Toronto as a student of the great Chilean teacher, Alberto Guerrero, who also taught Glenn Gould (though Gould later perversely denied it). From there Aide went to New York’s Juilliard School, where he studied with Beveridge Webster. He has traveled widely as a soloist, recitalist and accompanist, and taught at a number of Canadian universities, among them Mount Allison, Acadia, Manitoba (where his most celebrated piano student was the playwright Thomson Highway), Western Ontario, and the University of Toronto, where he is Professor Emeritus. He has premiered many Canadian works, and made a number of recordings, including all the Suzuki piano repertoire.

Aide’s recital debut with the Toronto Symphony in Massey Hall was almost a disaster: “I sit down at the keyboard and signal (the conductor) to start the opening tutti. When I look down at the keyboard, I see that it is covered lightly with soot. To this day I cannot account for this nightmarish hazard, except to imagine that the large suspended cone lights of Massey Hall had somehow been shifted and dirt had fallen. I spend the opening tutti (thank God for classical form) cleaning the keyboard, with a handkerchief I have mercifully remembered.”

With the PEISO, Aide will perform Mozart’s last piano concerto, K 595 in B flat major (no. 27). It has been called one of the miracles of the repertoire. Critic Raymond Tuttle has written of the “great Mozartean paradox: how can music that seems so carefree move us so deeply?” When Carnegie Hall in New York scheduled a special concert for Mozart’s recent 250th birthday celebration on January 27th, this concerto was on the program. Alfred Brendel was the soloist, with Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Philharmonic.

The other works on the program will be Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture Op. 62, Serenade Op. 20 of Edward Elgar, and Haydn’s Symphony No. 103, nicknamed the “Drumroll”.

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