Anton (Emil) Kuerti. Pianist, teacher, composer, concert organizer, artistic director, social activist, b Vienna 21 Jul 1938, naturalized US 1944, naturalized Canadian 1984; B MUS (Cleveland Institute) 1955, honorary FRHCM 1978, honorary D MUS (Laurentian) 1985, honorary D MUS (Western) 2007. After lessons as a child with Edward Goldman in Boston, Anton Kuerti made his debut at nine, playing the Grieg Concerto with the Boston Pops Orchestra. He studied 1948-52 at the Longy School, Cambridge, Mass, with Erwin Bodky and Gregory Tucker (piano) and Arthur Shepherd (composition); 1952-3 at the Peabody Institute with Ernö Balogh (piano) and Henry Cowell (composition); 1953-5 at the Cleveland Institute with Arthur Loesser and Beryl Rubinstein (piano) and Marcel Dick (composition); and 1955-8 at the Curtis Institute with Rudolf Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. Of his many teachers, he regards Loesser and Serkin as having had the greatest influence on his musical thinking.
Activities and Performances to 1980s
During Anton Kuerti's student years he was a soloist with the Zimbler Sinfonietta (1950) and with the MIT Symphony Orchestra (1951) and gave recitals (1953) at the Gardner Museum, Boston, and the Phillips Gallery, Washington. He also performed annually 1953-6 at the Marlboro Festival. His professional concert career began in 1957, when he won the Philadelphia Orchestra Youth Prize, the National Music League Award, and the coveted Leventritt Award, which includes engagements with major US orchestras; he consequently appeared with the Cleveland Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Over the next 30 years he performed with many other US orchestras, including the Philadelphia and the Minnesota, and, (before and after settling in Canada) with all of the main Canadian orchestras, including the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO), the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) (in Ottawa and, in 1973, on tour), Symphony Nova Scotia, the Toronto Symphony (TS) (the first time in 1961 as a replacement for Myra Hess), the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In 1965 Kuerti left the US and settled in Canada.
He also has appeared in recital and with major orchestras in Australia, Belgium, China, Czechoslovakia, England, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, Latin America, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, and the USSR. He has played at the Aspen, Spoleto, Prague, Dubrovnik, Santa Fe, Grand Teton, Newport, Caramoor (New York), Marlboro, Vermont, Lanaudière (Quebec), Orford, and other festivals and performed frequently on radio and TV in Europe and Canada. At the end of 2003, Kuerti had appeared in 140 communities in Canada and his performing career had expanded to include tours to nearly 40 countries. His recordings could also be heard almost daily on CBC Radio.
As a performer and active concert programmer, Kuerti has on occasion surveyed the piano, voice, and chamber music repertoires of individual composers. In 1972 he performed a Scriabin series on CBC radio, and his recording of four Scriabin pieces received high praise in John W. Clark's critical appraisal of Scriabin compositions on record (19th-Century Music, vol 6, spring 1983). His integral performances of the 32 sonatas of Beethoven, 1974-5 in Toronto and Ottawa, led to a CBC broadcast of the cycle (in 19 programs, 1976), a complete recording (Aquitaine), which in 1976 won the first Juno Award given to a recording in the classical music category, and repetitions of the cycle in Hamilton, Ont; Montreal; New York City; and Toronto in the 1978 season. Similarly, a complete series of the Beethoven concertos with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra in 1986 in Kitchener and Toronto was followed later that year by the release of his recording (CBC SM 5027) of those works with the TS under Andrew Davis. Kuerti also participated as a soloist and chamber musician in the 1977 Brahms concerts at St Lawrence Centre, Toronto; and, as founder and director of Northstars Concerts, Inc., he presented himself and other leading musicians in Toronto festivals of Schubert (1976-7), Mozart (1977-8), and Bach (1979-80). Highlights of the Schubert and Mozart festivals included Kuerti's appearance with Lois Marshall in a complete Winterreise and with the 85-year-old Mieczyslaw Horszowski in a program of Mozart's four-hand Sonatas. Kuerti's most ambitious project as a concert organizer to that time was the Festival of the Sound which he founded in 1980 and directed until 1985. Kuerti's wife, the cellist Kristine Bogyo (b Budapest, Hungary 6 Jul 1946, d Toronto 6 Apr 2007), was active as a concert organizer in Toronto.
Kuerti was pianist-in-residence 1965-8, associate professor 1968-72, and artist-in-residence until 1989 at the University of Toronto, where his pupils included Jane Coop, Yuval Fichman, Kathryn Root, and Elyakim Taussig. He also has given master classes at the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Festival of the Sound, and elsewhere.
In 1971 Kuerti enthusiastically returned to composing, with his Linden Suite for piano. He quickly added five more works: Magog, a poem for cello and piano, composed for Bogyo during their courtship at the Orford Arts Centre in Magog, Quebec (1972); String Quartet No. 2 (1972; his first quartet was written in 1954); Symphony 'Epomeo' (1973); a Violin Sonata (1973); and Six Arrows for piano (1973). In the 1980s he added three more works: a Piano Concerto (1985); Piano Man Suite for piano (1986); and a Trio for clarinet, cello, and piano (1989). Later, he wrote a Concertino for piano, violin and flute (1996).
Many of Kuerti's compositions (all in manuscript) are rooted in Scriabin, early Berg, and the dissonant post-Romantics. He has given the premieres of his own works and of several by other Canadian composers, including Oskar Morawetz (Piano Concerto No. 1, 1963 with the MSO; Suite for Piano, 1969 in Montreal), Sophie Eckhardt-Gramatté (Symphony-Concerto, 1968 with the TS), and Srul Irving Glick (Northern Sketches for choir, violin, cello and piano, at the 1982 Festival of the Sound).
His Philosophy and Social Activism
As one of the two or three top pianists at work in Canada, Kuerti commands a large and discriminating public. He is interested in helping his audiences achieve a better understanding and appreciation of the music he performs. William Littler, the critic for the Toronto Star, wrote (10 May 1977): '[Kuerti] habitually pays his listeners the compliment of assuming that their ears come to him in search of stimulation rather than massage ... You can't just sit back and let the music wash over you. The playing is too intense, too probing. Almost in spite of himself, the listener becomes drawn into the action.'
Despite his success, Kuerti's performance fees are much less than those charged by other pianists of his calibre. This is because he strongly believes that excessively high fees are destructive and often prevent deserving music lovers from entering the concert hall. This attitude ensures lower ticket prices for his concerts, and thus greater accessibility for the general public; in addition, it allows him to accept engagements in smaller centres that would not otherwise be able to afford a musician of his rank.
An uncompromising, independent thinker, Kuerti has actively espoused a variety of social and political causes. He has repeatedly participated in benefit concerts for humanitarian organizations, such as Amnesty International, Oxfam, and the United Nation's Children Fund. Audiences at his concerts are frequently exhorted to return their programs for recycling. He was the New Democratic Party candidate in the Toronto riding of Don Valley North during the 1988 federal election. His campaign focused on the environment, national defence, and opposition to free trade; he was not elected.
Kuerti's extramusical activities have met with critical opposition; as Urjo Kareda stated, 'Anton Kuerti is still regarded as too unconventional. Unlike Glenn Gould's, his eccentricities have not been beatified as a sign of genius, only of political orneriness' (Saturday Night, Jul 1988). Nonetheless Kuerti's musical talents have been extremely widely praised, and he is regarded by many as one of the outstanding pianists active in Canada after the death of Gould. London's CD Review described Kuerti as "one of the truly great pianists of this century."
His performing style has been compared to that of his mentor, Rudolf Serkin, but Kuerti himself has stated that he tries 'to reconcile the individualistic, romantic tradition of players like Paderewski, Cortot and Rachmaninoff with the profound and intellectual tradition, more academically inclined, of such players as Schnabel, Serkin and Brendel' (Toronto Globe and Mail, 1 Feb 1986).
Highlights to Present
During 1994 Kuerti was the artistic director of Toronto's leading annual chamber music series, Music Toronto.
In 1996 Analekta Records of Montreal reissued a digitally remastered 10-CD set of Kuerti's Juno Award-winning 1975-76 Aquitaine recording of the complete Beethoven Sonatas (Analekta FL2 4010). Kuerti was also nominated for Juno awards in 1987, 2000, 2003, 2009 and 2011.
In 2002, Kuerti served as artistic director of the world's first Carl Czerny Music Festival and International Symposium. Located in Edmonton, the festival was presented by the University of Alberta's Canadian Centre for Austrian and Central European Studies. The four-day festival highlighted many of Czerny's large-scale, unknown, unpublished works. Among them was a symphony, which Kuerti edited, along with two string quartets.
Kuerti was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in May 1998. During the same year Kuerti, along with the Orchestre métropolitain at the Festival international de Lanaudière, won the Opus Award from the Conseil québécois de la musique (formerly L'Association des Organismes musicaux du Québec).
Also, in 2002, Kuerti and Kristine Bogyo were the subjects of a CBC-TV arts documentary entitled "A Marriage in Music." He also won Germany's Robert Schumann Prize and the Banff Centre's National Arts Award in 2007, and a Governor-General's Performing Arts Award in 2008.
'Anton Kuerti's step by step guide for determining if your piano is in good registration,' Clavier, May-Jun 1973
'Thoughts about composing,' CFMTA Newsletter, Feb 1976
'It's a thrill to create your own universe in music. It also can be drudgery,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 20 Nov 1976
'Chamber music - my femme fatale,' Chamber Music Magazine, vol 2, Spring 1985
- with Wagner, Jeffrey. 'Artists in their own ways: Arthur Loesser and Rudolph Serkin,' Clavier, vol 25, Nov 1987
"The artist's life: Anton Kuerti," Toronto Globe and Mail, 2 Apr 2001
Also, detailed notes accompanying his recording of the Complete Beethoven Sonatas..
Beethoven Sonatas No. 6, 24, 25, 26. 1965. Monitor MCS-2075
- Fantasia, Opus 77; Sonata, Opus 14, no. 1; Andante Favori; Sonata, Opus 26. 1969. RCI 278/RCA LSC-3140
- The Complete Piano Sonatas; Diabelli Variations. 1974-5. 13-Aquitaine M3S-90365, 90369, and M4S-90361, 90374/(Sonatas) 13-Odyssey Y4-34646, Y3-34647-34649/(selections) Aquitaine MS-90506
- Moonlight Sonata, Hammerklavier Sonata. 1989. Analekta AN-9201 (CD)
- Piano Concertos. TS, Davis conductor. 1984. 3-CBC SMCD-5027 (CD)
Chopin Études, Opus 25 - Mozart Fantasia in D Minor K397. 1971. Monitor MCS-2133
Eckhardt-Gramatté Symphony-Concerto for piano and orchestra. CBC Festival O, A. Brott conductor. 1968. RCI 328/CBC SM-107/RCA LSC-3175/5-ACM 21
Glick Northern Sketches. Elmer Iseler Singers, Kaplan violin, Bogyo violoncello, Iseler conductor. 1989. 4-ACM 34 (CD)
Great Russian Piano Music: Tchaikowsky - Glazunov - Liadov. 1982. Fanfare DFL-9018/Analekta AN-9202 (CD)
Haydn Six sonates pour piano. 2008. Analekta AN 2 9933
Liszt Sonata in B Minor; Glazunov Sonata, Opus 74. 1976. Aquitaine XM-90414
Mendelssohn Rondo Capriccioso; Fantasy, Opus 28; Preludes and Fugues; Scherzo in B Minor; Scherzo a Capriccio in F Sharp Minor. 1968. Monitor MCS-2128
- Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, Capriccio Brillante. London Phil O, P. Freeman conductor. 1986. Marquis ERAD-123 (CD)
Morawetz Piano Concerto No. 1. TSO, Susskind conductor. 1964? (1975). Cap SW-6123/Pathé SPAM-68023/RCI 212/(1984) 6-ACM 16
- Piano Concerto No. 1. CBC Montreal orch, J.-M. Beaudet conductor. 1965? RCI 213-A
Schubert Wanderer Fantasy; Sonata, Opus 78. 1966. Monitor MCS-2109
- Sonata in B Flat, D960. 1981. Turnabout CTC-32008
- Piano Sonatas 4 vols. 1990-1. Masters MCD-19, 20, 29, 33 (CD)
Schumann Carnaval, Opus 9; Humoreske, Opus 20. 1979. Analekta AN-9203 (CD)
- Kreisleriana; Sonata No. 2, Opus.14. 1969. CBC SM-83/A of D SDD-2154
- Fantasy, Opus 17; Toccata, Opus 7. 1971. CBC SM-157
- 8 Novelettes, Opus 21. 1975. VEB Deutsche Schallplatten Berlin/Eterna 8 26 524
- Piano Sonata in G Minor, Opus 22; Fantasie in C Major, Opus 17. 2010. Doremi DDR-6608
- Quintet for piano and strings. Orford String Quartet. 1971. CBC SM-213
Scriabin Sonatas No. 4 and 6; 5 Preludes; 6 Études - Berg Sonata, Opus 1. 1971. Monitor MCS-2134
See also Discographies for Lois Marshall, Lorand Fenyves.
Bowers, Faubion. 'Anton Kuerti - "a pianistic supernova,"' New York Times, 27 Feb 1972
Peredo, Sandra. 'A Beethoven freak who works for Stompin' Tom,' Canadian Magazine, 8 Feb 1975
Levitch, Gerald. 'The role of the recitalist-composer,' Canadian Composer, 97, Jan 1975
Schulman, Michael. 'Anton Kuerti's fight against fame,' Performing Arts in Canada, Spring 1975
Harper, Tim. 'The controversy of Kuerti,' Fugue, vol 1, Feb 1977
Hathaway, Thomas. 'Kuerti's Schubert,' Canadian Forum, vol 56, Mar 1977
Marchant, Janet. 'Passionate rebel of the keyboard,' Maclean's, 11 Aug 1980
Waller, Adrian. 'Anton Kuerti: pianist with panache,' Reader's Digest, vol 123, Aug 1983
Straessle, Carla. 'This pianist comes to terms with the computer,' Canadian Composer, 207, Jan 1986
Kaptainis, Arthur. 'Anton Kuerti,' Toronto Globe and Mail, 1 Feb 1986
'The enduring value of union principles,' International Musician, Jun 1987
Wagner, Jeffrey. 'Anton Kuerti,' Clavier, vol 26, Nov 1987
Colgrass, Ulla. 'Anton Kuerti,' For the Love of Music: (Toronto, New York 1988)
Kareda, Urjo. 'On the record,' Saturday Night, Jul 1988
Bernstein, Tamara. "Kuerti in uninspired company," Toronto Globe and Mail, 9 Feb 1991
"Kuerti's Keyboards," Gramophone, Feb 1992
Cloutier, Mario. "Anton Kuerti et la politique de la musique," Le Devoir, 6 Jan 1996
Aide, William. "Kuerti conquers Beethoven's world," Toronto Globe and Mail, 18 Jan 1997
Kaptainis, Arthur. "Beethoven marathon," The Montreal Gazette, 3 Aug 1997
Dineen, Murray. "The thinking person's pianist," The Ottawa Citizen, 23 May 1998
Cooper, Dorith. "A marriage in music: Kristine Bogyo and Anton Kuerti," WholeNote, vol 7, no. 6, Mar 1 - Apr 7, 2002