The WMCT’s Career Development Award prizes of $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 – among the highest awards for classical music in Canada.

On Sunday April 26, I had the pleasure of attending the tenth presentation of the Women’s Musical Club of Toronto (WMCT)’s Career Development Award (CDA). Established 25 years ago and presented every 3 years, the CDA aims to assist “exceptional young Canadian musicians who are already engaged in a professional performing career.” This year’s finalists were chosen from 10 nominees by CBC producers over the past year. The live competition held in Water Hall featured the top three finalists, Pianist-Author Pierre-André Doucet, pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, and cellist Stéphane Tétreault for prizes of $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 – among the highest awards for classical music in Canada. Our gracious host for the afternoon was Julie Nesrallah of CBC Radio 2, who was absolutely delightful.

The first portion of the event was the concert, featuring a solo performance featuring pieces of their choice. Pianist and author Pierre-André Doucet took the stage first. He treated us to pieces by Franz Joseph Haydn, Richard Wagner/Franz Liszt, and Carl Vine. We all listened attentively as he played. When he finished his rendition of “Isoldens Liebestod” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde as arranged by Franz Liszt, there was a thunderous applause. This last aria from Tristan und Isolde is a beautiful piece of music, and Doucet conveyed the emotions and intensity of the piece in a way that struck an emotional chord with the audience. This was definitely a standout out of all three pieces, which were all beautiful and challenging in their own ways. With talent that extends from the musical to the literary world, he is certainly on his way to a shining career.

Second on stage was cellist Stéphane Tétreault, who at 22 years of age has accomplished some great things already. He was the first ever Soloist-in-Residence of the Orchestre Métropolitain, and made his debut at the Auditorium of the Louvre this past March. Tétreault played four pieces for us accompanied by Marie-Ève Scarfone on piano. His choices included works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Jules Massenet, Alexina Louie, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Tétreault excelled in all four pieces; the communication between him and Scarfone was also great to witness. His interpretation of Massenet’s “Méditation” from Thäis was exquisite in every sense of the word. The piece in itself is beautiful but hearing it performed live just evoked such a depth of emotions. I actually saw other audience members wipe tears from their eyes. This is how you know it is more than the music, it is also the artist who uses his instrument to move us. Tétreault clearly did this, and Nesrallah was equally impressed. All she could day was, “wow!”

Following this performance, pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin ended the first portion of the event. He is also very talented and on his way to an illustrious musical career as well. Richard-Hamelin is currently studying with André Laplante at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal. For this competition, he chose pieces by Johan Sebastian Bach and Frédéric Chopin. Beginning with Bach’s Partita No. 7 in B Minor, it was evident at its onset that Richard-Hamelin can play the piano effortlessly. His mastery over the instrument is apparent and palpable from beginning to end. His rendition of Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 58 was equally masterful. Everyone in the audience was very attentive throughout the performance. Even Nesrallah was thoroughly impressed by Richard-Hamelin’s prowess.

And with this third performance, we took a break as we waited for the jurors to decide who would take top prize. The difficult task of deciding was left to Midori Koga, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies at the Faculty of Music University of Toronto, Kerry Stratton, renowned conductor and 96.3 Radio host, and Winona Zelenka, Assistant Principal cellist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

As we all made our predictions, we waited for the jurors to return to the hall. This was not an easy decision as Koga stated just prior to announcing this year’s WMCT Career Development Award top winner to be Charles Richard-Hamelin. Tétreault and Doucet received second and third prize, respectively.

While not a surprise to many in attendance—Richard-Hamelin seemed the obvious choice given his technical, intellectual and effortless mastery of the piano and music played—I will admit that Tétreault clearly stole the show for me. He is not only a gifted musician but has a way of playing the cello that is a delight to hear and watch. He clearly loves the instrument.

Doucet is also clearly very talented. His performance gained momentum for me on the second piece, Liszt’s arrangement of Wagner’s Liebestod. In the end, there is no doubt all these young talents will go on to fulfill their musical careers and then some. They are three names to note in the Canadian music scene.

For those of you who were unable to attend this concert, CBC Radio 2 will broadcast it at a later date. This was certainly a great afternoon, well spent. For those that want to experience the amazing concerts presented by the WMCT, don’t miss their concert this Thursday afternoon featuring Ensemble Made in Canada at 1pm.