As a classical pianist with a lot of notes behind him, Georgy Tchaidze has studied and performed throughout Europe and North America.
But it’s in Calgary where the Russian-born musician has made his biggest stride, so far.
As the 2009 laureate of the prestigious Honens International Piano Competition, based in the Albertan city, arguably better known for its country and western than classical, Tchaidze has been able to reach a worldwide audience.
“This was my first time in Canada,” said Tchaidze who is in Vernon next week to open the North Okanagan Community Concert Association’s 2011-2012 season. “I thought the cowboy hats and cowboys was interesting, but I also heard about the Rockies and the Banff art programs and was very impressed.”
Born in St. Petersburg, Tchaidze (pronounced Chai-eed-zé, while Georgy is Eeyore-gé) began studying the piano at the age of seven, following in his brother’s footsteps.
“My parents were not musicians, they were music lovers. I should also say thanks to my brother for helping me start,” he said.
Attending a Russian traditional school, then a special school where he studied math, history and art, Tchaidze took private piano lessons and also learned English.
Currently studying at the Moscow Conservatory, Tchaidze applied to the Honens competition when he was 21 years old.
Held only every third year, the Honens competition is considered one of the top five international piano competitions in the world.
After completing the required paperwork, and sending in a CV of his previous concert programs, Tchaidze was invited along with 100 other pianists to try out in the “elimination round” in Munich, Germany.
He was one of 25 pianists invited to Calgary.
Once arriving in Alberta, Tchaidze got to work. The competition lasted over four weeks. As a semi-finalist, he had to give an hour-long solo recital and also perform in a chamber music ensemble. He was also given the chance to perform with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.
His eventual win came with $35,000, notoriety and opportunities that continue to this day.
Although he performed Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C major Op. 26 at the Honens final, and has been known to pound out Rachmaninoff’s second concerto, Tchaidze says he is not tied to any particular composer – Russian or otherwise.
“I always enjoy to perform good music. It’s a special pleasure and I love a lot of composers. The most important to me are Schubert, Mahler and Ravel. I love to play music of the 19th century. The period was not all melodic, but rhythmic. I love the spirit of when it is put all together.”
Since the competition, Tchaidze has returned to Canada twice, and he still keeps in contact with the family who hosted him while he was in Calgary.
“I have a warm relationship with them,” he said.
On one Canada-U.S. tour, Tchaidze was accompanied by Clara-Jumi Kang, gold medallist at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis.
And on this current visit that includes Vernon, he will solo with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, led by Pinchas Zuckerman.
“It’s connected to the Honens, but is not part of prize,” explained Tchaidze. “It introduced me to conductors and producers, and I played a small recital with (Zuckerman.)”
In 2012, he will make his debut at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, New York, and Wigmore Hall in London, England.
“I look forward to seeing the Mets and Carnegie,” he said.
But first, Tchaidze is gearing up for the North Okanagan Community Concert. He will perform on the NOCCA’s Hamburg Steinway piano at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
This year’s community concert season promises to be a return to the 56-year-old organization’s classical roots, with performances by the Penderecki String Quartet, the Elmer Iseler Singers, cellist David Eggert and the Buzz Brass.
In addition, the NOCCA is bringing in a special performance by Armenian-Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, who won the 2000 Operalia competition founded by Plácido Domingo and has dazzled audiences in such places as the Metropolitan Opera House, Salzburg Festival, Covent Gardens and Carnegie Hall. She can also be heard singing Evenstar on the soundtrack to the film Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
In Vernon, she will be accompanied by her husband, pianist and composer Serouj Kradjian.
“This extra performance is not part of the five-concert season package,” said NOCCA publicist Jan Waldon. “All seats for this one event are open and must be purchased separately, however, a discount will be provided to season subscribers.”
Memberships to the NOCCA season, which are pro-rated as the season continues, as well as single tickets to each performance, are now available at the Ticket Seller box office in the Performing Arts Centre. Call 250-549-7469 to order or for information.