Call for nominations: December 2019 / January 2020 Nominations due: 07 February 2020 Deadline for applications and supporting materials: 20 March 2020 Pre-selection: March/April 2020 Auditions: 25–27 May 2020 in Ottawa
The Sylva Gelber Music Foundation held its twelfth annual competition in 2019. As in previous years, we discovered an extraordinary array of Canadian talent in classical music performance displayed by those young musicians who passed to the live audition phase of our awards process. We were extremely grateful for the assistance of our stellar jury, this year made up of Lawrence Ewashko from the University of Ottawa and the Ewashko Singers; David Gillham from UBC, a member of the Archytas Ensemble and the Ridge Piano Trio; Stéphane Lemelin, Chair of the Department of Performance and Professor of Piano at the Schulich School of Music in Montreal; and Nora Shulman, former Principal Flute with the Toronto Symphony and teacher at the University of Toronto and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Over three action-packed days at the University of Ottawa’s School of Music,
which generously provides the Foundation with rehearsal and performance space,
we had an opportunity to hear young musicians from every region of the country.
Several are engaged in advanced studies at prestigious music schools in Canada,
the US, England and Europe, or are working with master teachers, performers and
conductors. Some were simply in need of assistance to continue regular lessons
or support themselves in extremely expensive European capitals while they make
the transition to a full-time professional career. Many award winners are
combining their studies with participation in prestigious international
competitions; our best wishes go out to them as they prepare to measure
themselves against top young artists from around the world!
From among a group of highly talented candidates, the jury recommended
awards to 10 young artists, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, for a
total disbursement this year of approximately $165,000. The Board of Directors
of the Foundation is delighted to announce the following winners of the 2018
Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Awards:
Kevin Ahfat, pianist, Toronto
As a pianist that “leaves no question about his
riveting presentation and technical finesse” (Seattle Times), Canadian pianist
Kevin Ahfat is “poised to become one of the young heirs of the classical piano
realm, with a bold, boundary-pushing, millennial style matched by refined
execution” (Vanguard Seattle), “summoning plenty of thunderpower in the big
moments, but clearly valuing musicianship over mere showmanship” (American
In 2018, Kevin was named one of CBC’s 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30; he subsequently released a live recording of Brahms from CBC’s Studio 211. That same year, Kevin was thrilled to perform the North American premiere of the recently published Third Sonata for Cello & Piano, by Camille Saint-Saëns. In anticipation, he filmed and produced a minidocumentary entitled Soirée pour Camille, a short film documenting the historical context of the work, his artistic partnership with cellist Juliette Herlin, and their exploration of French music. Continuing his dynamic exploration of music and film, he recently partnered with Riddle Films to release a cinematic performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, filmed live at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.
Highlights of recent seasons include returns to the
Seattle Symphony for its first ever Shostakovich Concerto Festival and to the
Dame Myra Hess Series in Chicago, and the inaugural masterclass and recital for
the Las Vegas Masterclass Series. Ahfat has had the privilege of sharing the
stage with renowned artists across many genres, including Jean-Yves Thibaudet,
So Percussion, David Finckel, Joshua Roman, and Joaquin Valdepeñas. He enjoyed
a new partnership with choreographer Richard Alston and Juilliard Dance in
their recreation of Alston’s Sheer Bravado (2006). He has also appeared
with the ARC Ensemble, Amici Chamber Ensemble, and Art of Time Ensemble
throughout North America.
Kevin Ahfat completed principal studies at the
Juilliard School in New York under Joseph Kalichstein and Stephen Hough and
spent the past year as a Rebanks Fellow at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto.
In the coming year, he will use his Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award to
pursue studies with various eminent teachers, prepare for important
international competitions, and deepen his skills in film and other visual
media as a pathway to enhancing enjoyment and understanding of classical music.
Joel Allison, bass-baritone,
Canadian Bass-Baritone Joel Allison has been praised
for his “beautiful, rich, ringing tone.” (Ludwig von Toronto) He has performed
in Canada and Europe with the Canadian Opera Company, Saskatoon Opera,
Saskatoon Symphony, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir, the Tilford
Bach Festival, and the Newfoundland Symphony.
In the 2019-20 season, Joel is performing the roles of
The Mandarin in Turandot and Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with
the Canadian Opera Company in the Studio Ensemble; he is also giving his debut
performance with Symphony Nova Scotia. Last season he debuted with the COC in
their Studio Ensemble in the roles of Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin,
Superior Senator in the world premiere of Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian,
and Schaunard in La Bohème. He also appeared for the first time with the
Newfoundland Symphony in the Messiah.
Performance from the University of Toronto. He was the
recipient of the 2016/17 Richard Bradshaw Fellowship in Opera, the Norcop Prize
in Art Song, and the 2018 Tecumseh Sherman Rogers Graduating Award at the
University of Toronto. Joel is an alumnus of the Ontario Youth Choir,
Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, and the Toronto Summer Music Festival Art
In competitions Joel has won Second Prize at the
Christina and Louis Quillico Awards, Second Prize at The Great Lakes regional
finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Second Prize at
the COC Centre Stage Competition, and Second Prize at the Brian Law Opera
Competition. His Gelber Award has enabled him to participate in the Salzburg
Festival Young Singers Project the past summer and will facilitate networking
and auditions in Europe, as well as regular lessons back in Toronto.
Joel holds a BMus. in vocal performance from the
University of Ottawa and a Master’s in Opera
Suren Barry, pianist, Montreal
Barry is well known to audiences across Canada, and his concertizing has
brought him overseas as well. He has given numerous solo recitals at La
Chapelle Historique du Bon Pasteur in Montreal and has also been invited to
perform at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto, at the George Eastman House
in Rochester, NY, at the “Im Hayastan” Festival in Yerevan, Armenia, and at the
Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.
avid chamber musician, Suren regularly performs in various ensembles at the
Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival and at the Festival Pontiac
Enchanté. Recently, Suren has been performing with the McGill Percussion
Ensemble, whose schedule included a concert at the McCormick Marimba Festival
holds a BMus degree from Carleton University and a Master’s in Piano
Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music; he is currently
pursuing his doctorate at the Schulich School of Music in Montreal. He recently
received a prestigious Doctoral Fellowship from the Social Sciences and
Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for his research on keyboard improvisation
in the 18th century. This project focuses on helping pianists reclaim
the rich tradition of improvised classical music. His 2019 Gelber Award will
enable him to continue with lessons in Montreal, participate in competitions,
and pursue his interest in classical music improvisation through his own
performance and in collaboration with esteemed improvisers in the UK and the
Arian Brisson, flûtiste, Montréal
Grand prize winner
of the Orchestre symphonique de Trois Rivières’ 28th competition and
of the 2013 Prix d’Europe, Ariane Brisson has distinguished herself in multiple
forums: at the 6th edition of the International Flute Competition in
Krakov, at her final public examination at the Montreal Conservatory of Music
(Great Distinction), and at the University of Montreal, where she earned her
Master’s degree (Mention exceptionnelle).
Ariane studied under
Mathieu Dufour at DePaul University in Chicago in 2013-14. More recently, her
personal reflexions on musical interpretation prompted her to undertake
doctoral studies at the University of Montreal.
An accomplished soloist, Ariane is also called upon to
perform concertos and other masterworks of the flute repertoire with Les
Violons du Roy, the orchestra of the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and
the Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières. A passionate chamber musician,
Ariana founded the duo Palladium with pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard in 2015; the
duo was selected by Jeunesses musicales du Canada to perform in the context of
their “Concerts Relève” series in 2017-18.
Drawn by the fluidity and sensitivity of her playing
and the richness of her tone, the musicians of Pentaèdre invited Ariana to join
their ensemble in 2016.
This year’s Gelber Foundation Award is Ariana’s
second. It will enable her to undertake periods of study in Europe with her
mentors, flutists Mathieu Dufour and Philippe Bernold.
Cheng, cellist, Ottawa
Laureate of the VI International Paulo Cello Competition, 21-year-old Bryan Cheng is acclaimed worldwide for his “absolutely astonishing” (La Presse, Montréal) command of the cello, “dreamy beauty” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), and “abundant facility, innate musicality, and sense of joy” (New York Concert Review). He made his solo debut at age 10 with the Orchestre de chambre I Musici de Montréal, his Carnegie Hall recital debut at 14, and his Elbphilharmonie solo debut in 2018 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and conductor Joshua Weilerstein.
Solo highlights of recent and upcoming seasons include appearances with Finland’s Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, Lahti Symphony Orchestra, and Tapiola Sinfonietta; Germany’s Schleswig-Holsteinisches Sinfonieorchester and Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim; New York’s Adelphi Orchestra; Missouri’s Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, Niagara and Okanagan Symphony Orchestras, and Symphony Nova Scotia, under the baton of such esteemed conductors as Susanna Mälkki, Peter Oundjian, David Geringas, and Jonathan Darlington.
As cellist of the ChengÇ Duo, Bryan has released a trilogy of critically acclaimed albums on the German label audite: Russian Legends (2019), Violonchelo del fuego (2018), and Violoncelle français (2016). He currently studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin with Jens Peter Maintz, and plays on the ca. 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello with the ca. 1830 Shaw Adam bow, generously on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank, as First Laureate of their 2018 Competition. Bryan will use his second Gelber Foundation Award to continue a customized program of intensive study, including mentorship from master cellists and conductors; he will also participate in numerous prestigious international competitions, and develop new repertoire for performance.
Born in Winnipeg, Kady
Evanyshyn joined the International Opera Studio at the Hamburg Staatsoper in
September 2019. A competitor in this year’s Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera
International Song Competition, Ms. Evanyshyn is positioning herself at the
crossroads of classical opera and contemporary vocal music. She recently
premiered Stefano Gervasoni’s Drei Grabschriften for mezzo-soprano and
piano and performed Berio’s Folk Songs with Jeffrey
Milarsky in Alice Tully Hall. Upcoming performances include Claire in Cold
Mountain (West Coast premiere), Glascha in Katja
Kabanova (German debut), and J.S. Bach’s cantata Ich habe genug,
conducted by Simone Dinnerstein. Ms. Evanyshyn has received awards from the
Gerda Lissner Lieder/Song Competition and the Winnipeg Music Festival.
Past roles include
Second Woman in Dido and Aeneas (New York, London, Versailles), Frau
Reich in Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Juilliard), and Annio
in La clemenza di Tito (Aspen). Kady is an alumnus of the Aspen Music
Festival, Music Academy of the West, and Houston Grand Opera’s Young Artist
Vocal Academy. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at The Juilliard
School, studying with Edith Wiens. She is supported by the Novick Career
Advancement Grant in addition to her Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award, which
she will use to assist with travel, vocal lessons and German language
training, and other costs that help to build her musical career during her stay
Maïthéna is a first-prize winner of the Canadian
Music Competition and winner of the 2017 Golden Violin Award, Canada’s largest
collegiate music prize. She was the winner in the strings category and of the
Québécor Prize at the 2019 Prix d’Europe competition. In 2015, she made her
debut in Carnegie Hall as a soloist and chamber musician. A passionate chamber
Maïthéna was a founding member of the Milton String Quartet, Grand
Prize winner at the 2017 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Maïthéna entered the Conservatoire de musique de
Montréal at age eight, where she studied with Helmut Lipsky for ten years. She went on to graduate with a Licentiate in Music and a Graduate
Diploma of Performance from McGill University, where her primary teachers
included Andrew Wan, Alexander Read and Axel Strauss. Maïthéna performs on the
1858 Ex. ”Comte Koucheliov” violin by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume with a bow by
François Lotte, both generously loaned to her by Canimex. This is her second
Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award; she plans to use it to continue her
studies at the Manhattan School of Music with Lucie Robert and to pursue her
involvement in chamber music.
pianist Xiaoyu Liu was born in Paris and raised in Montreal. One of the most
dynamic and technically gifted pianists of his generation, he is heralded for
musical interpretations that are “powerful, polished and emanate from a
disciplined spirit” (The Telegram).
His playing has taken him around the world,
and he has given recitals in Canada, China, the USA, Japan, France, Italy,
Ukraine, Salvador, Poland, Israel, and Switzerland. As a soloist, he has
performed with major orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra, Israel
Philharmonic Orchestra, Montréal Symphony Orchestra, Sendai Philharmonic
Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Israel Camerata Jerusalem,
Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, YOA Orchestra of the Americas, among others.
In 2014, he took part in a North-America tour
with the China NCPA Orchestra, performing Ravel’s G major Concerto, and also
appeared with them at the China National Centre for the Performing Arts in
Beijing. (National Post) described his interpretation “a subtle range of French
colour and feeling ”. In 2018, he will be touring with the National Symphony
Orchestra of Ukraine in China (Beijing Concert Hall, Shanghai Oriental Art
Center, Changsha, and Fuzhou).
Winner of the Prix d’Europe and the Grand
Prize at the OSM Competition, Xiaoyu has also won prizes and recognition in
various prestigious international competitions, including the Sendai
International Piano Competition, the Montreal International Music Competition, the
Visue, the Grand Prix Animato in Paris, the Interlaken Classics in Bern, and the
Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in Tel-Aviv. He has made
numerous studio recordings with ICI Radio-Canada featuring works by Bach,
Beethoven, Chopin, Ravel, and Satie. This is his second
consecutive Gelber Foundation Award; it will assist him in pursuing his studies
in Montreal and facilitate his participation in various international
Xiaoyu received the Prize with Great
Distinction from the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal under Richard Raymond
and he is continuing his studies with renowned pianist Dang Thai Son at the
University of Montreal.
Canadian Tenor Josh Lovell
is in his first season in the ensemble of the Wiener Staatsoper,
performing Lysander in a new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Lurcanio in Ariodante, Don Ramiro in La Cenerentolaand finally, Ernesto in Don
engagements include Don Ramiro with The New Generation
Festival in Florence, Gonsalve in L’Heure Espagnol with Wolf
Trap Opera, Poisson in Adriana Lecouvreur as part of the
Salzburger Festspiele’s Young Singer’s Project, Mozart’s Requiem with
the Vancouver Symphony, and Handel’s Messiah with
the Victoria Symphony.
Josh was a member of Lyric
Opera of Chicago’s Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center, and
participated in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Opera Program.
is the 2018 Grand Prize and Opera Prize winner of the 52nd
Annual International Vocal Competition ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The
Netherlands, the 2nd place winner of the 2018 Dallas
Opera Competition, and the 3rd place winner of the Marcello Giordani Foundation competition; in 2017 he was a semi-finalist with the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. From
Victoria, British Columbia, he was a student of Benjamin Butterfield at
the University of Victoria and graduated from
the University of Michigan, where he studied
with Stanford Olsen. He currently studies with Julia Faulkner.
Born in Macedonia and raised in Toronto, Ema earned a coveted
place in the Opera Course at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she
previously completed a Masters. Her principal teachers include Rudolf Piernay,
Susan McCulloch and Helga Tucker. She has an undergraduate degree in violin
from The Glenn Gould School, where she studied with Paul Kantor and Barry
Ema is a BBC New Generation Artist and a Young Classical Artist Trust
(YCAT) Artist. Her prizes and awards include the Ferrier Loveday Song Prize, the
Oxford Lieder Young Artist Platform award, the Guildhall Wigmore Prize, the Gerald
Moore Award Singers’ Prize, the Susan Longfield Prize, the First and Audience
Prizes at the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards, and Second Prize at the International
Helmut Deutsch Lied Competition.
Ema has been part of the Art of Song Program in Toronto, the Britten-Pears
Programme, the Music Academy of Villecroze, Les Azuriales, the Franz-Schubert-Institut,
Thomas Hampson’s Lied Akademie, and the Verbier Festival’s Atelier Lyrique.
Recent highlights include a debut recital at Wigmore Hall, the
Guildhall Gold Medal Final, and a Schubert Lieder recital with Malcolm
Martineau at the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin.
Upcoming engagements include the Creative
Dialogue XI Symposium with Kaija Saariaho, a recital with Joseph Middleton in
Glenarm, the role of Celia in Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata and Sister
Edgar in The Angel Esmeralda, and a premiere by Lliam Paterson (both
Ema is grateful to the Shipley Rudge Scholarship, London
Syndicate and The Countess of Munster Musical Trust for their support. She will
be applying her Gelber Award to the costs associated with living and studying