Hey there, time traveller! This article was published 15/3/2016 (2082 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Emily Rekrut-Pressey, 18, recalls being swept away after hearing acclaimed Canadian violist Nicolò Eugelmi perform Krzysztof Penderecki’s Cadenza per viola solo during last year’s Agassiz Chamber Music Festival.
Dazzled by his interpretation, she immediately knew she had to get the fiendishly difficult work under her own bow.
Fast-forward less than a year, and that same work earned her the top instrumental prize at Saturday’s Winnipeg Music Festival Aikins Memorial Trophy competition, held at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
"When I heard it performed last year at Agassiz, it was just so beautiful and filled with such a sense of despair," Rekrut-Pressey said immediately following her win. "I wanted to captivate the audience as much as Nick did last year."
The Aikins Memorial Trophy has been awarded since 1930 for most outstanding performance in an instrumentalist competition. The prize package also includes the Ann Lugsdin Memorial Bursary, as well as performance opportunities with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Virtuosi Concerts.
One of the night’s four adjudicators, Ottawa-based Rennie Regehr, who is the former principal violist for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, praised Rekrut-Pressey’s artistry. When asked what tipped the balance in her favour, Regehr, who also heard her perform throughout the week, including winning three additional solo classes, doesn’t miss a beat.
"Her passion and commitment to the piece," he responds. "Her sound was fantastic, very expressive, powerful and extremely strong. She nailed all the technical stuff to the wall and just played the tar out of it.
Rekrut-Pressey first took up violin at age six. She switched to viola four years later, and began lessons with WSO principal violist Daniel Scholz in 2013.
"I am extremely proud of Emily’s success, and have watched her level of commitment grow exponentially," Scholz writes in an email. "She is a very thoughtful and insightful young artist whose drive to excel is boundless."
Penderecki’s roughly nine-minute piece is notoriously difficult, structured as one single, treacherous movement. Rekrut-Pressey diligently listened to YouTube recordings and interviews with famous violists during her preparations.
She also had to deal with stage fright, she says.
"The piece is so complicated and the nerves of being onstage can affect its outcome," she reveals. "I thought more about its overall structure and what my bow was doing, rather than what my fingers were doing and what I wanted people to feel," she said.
"The Cadenza is such a heart-wrenching piece and I wanted to make people feel all its emotions," Rekrut-Pressey says of her performance. "This was also probably my last performance at the festival, and I wanted to end with a real bang."
After she graduates from Kelvin High School in June, Rekrut-Pressey is planning to pursue her musical studies at either the University of Ottawa or University of Toronto. She has her sights set on eventually joining an orchestra, or a smaller ensemble performing the chamber music she adores.
A weekly review of the Winnipeg arts scene, delivered every Thursday.
Naturally, Rekrut-Pressey enjoys listening to music, citing Schubert and Beethoven as two of her personal go-to composers. However, she admits to another great love that’s more surprising.
"Mariachi," she says with a laugh. "I love Spanish music and especially the trumpet. I actually enjoy a lot of music that isn’t classical." The versatile musician plays alto saxophone in her school’s jazz band.
She is also an avid runner, competing in track events as a member of the University of Manitoba Bisons Track Club.
Three runners-up for the Aikins Memorial Trophy were also announced (in alphabetical order): Fan-En Chiang, piano; James Graham, guitar; and Matthew Robinson, saxophone.
The WMF’s second major trophy, the Rose Bowl for most outstanding vocal performance, will be held Saturday at 7 p.m. at Westminster United Church. A gala concert featuring festival highlights takes place Sunday at 2 p.m. at the same venue.