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Ostiguy turns classical on its head

Marie-Andrée Ostiguy has a knack for exploding the stereotype of classically trained musicians as over-cultivated, temperamental prima donnas.

Marie-Andrée Ostiguy has a knack for exploding the stereotype of classically trained musicians as over-cultivated, temperamental prima donnas.

In fact, the sexy Quebec-based pianist displays an irresistible personal charm and a soothing quality that stems somewhat from her home at Mont-Saint-Hilaire, a tranquil UNESCO biosphere nature reserve nestled at the foot of a mountain and fronted by the Richelieu River.

It is a dream landscape and to some extent the inspiration for her seventh and last album. Released in 2007 under the label Mamusico, Rêverie is a 16-track CD bathed in jazz, tango, Latin and romantic rhythms. It was nominated for a 2008 Adisq Award, Quebec’s equivalent of the Junos.

As part of Rendez-Vous de la Francophonie, the Société Edmonton Chante presents the debut performance of Ostiguy and Artémuse String Quartet at the Arden Theatre on Friday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m.

An astute artist and a shrewd businesswoman who thrives on “creative control every step of the way,” Ostiguy has produced six of her own albums. (Back in 1988 Rene Angelil, Celine Dion’s husband, handled her first CD, a lush disc backed by the Montreal Symphony.)

Born into a farming community at Marieville, Que., Ostiguy started playing the ivories at age 10 when the family inherited her maternal grandmother’s upright. Born with a keen ear, she could hear a song once and reproduce it instantly.

By the time she was 12, Ostiguy was enrolled at the Conservatory of Montreal where artistic discipline was emphasized. Three years later she was taking master classes in New York. By 1980 she reached the miraculous age of 18 and was accepted at Julliard.

“At Julliard, I learned to play fast, loud and win competitions. But I felt I was missing something,” Ostiguy said. During a summer break she attended the Banff Centre and met Indiana University professor Gyorgy Sebok, an intuitive musician that emphasized the psychological side.

“I thought he would bring out my personality instead of just being a competition machine. He emphasized trying to find yourself in music and giving the public what you feel. It makes you go really deep into what you do.”

Although Ostiguy transferred to Indiana, a family illness drew her back to Quebec, a place the virtuoso has come to depend upon for artistic inspiration.

As the eldest of three sisters, Ostiguy learned early on the meaning of being responsible for others. When women she cared about developed cancer — first her aunt, then Solange Bouchard, ArtĂ©muse quartet’s first violin and finally her husband’s cousin — the Canadian composer stepped up to the plate. “There was so much around me, I wanted to make a difference.”

Not only is she personally involved in the Relay for Life organized by the Canadian Cancer Society, but also on this tour, a donation of $2 from each ticket and CD sold will be remitted to the cancer society’s Alberta division.

“Even if what I do is a drop in the bucket, it can all help. As an artist, it’s my duty to help and I hope make a difference.”

The fervent pianist plans to woo her audience with songs from Rêverie. “I wrote it for people who have great dreams and have the courage to move forward.”

The self-titled track “opens with a simple piano and builds with beautiful violin and cello. It’s touching and brings a lot of emotion.”

On the opposite end of the emotional range Mango Tango is full of Argentinean fire and Jazz Valse honours jazz pianist Oliver Jones and classical pianist Henri Brassard, two opposites who often play together. “It catches the fun they have together.”

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Marie-Andrée Ostiguy with Artémuse String Quartet<br />Friday, March 12 at 7:30 p.m.<br />Arden Theatre<br />5 St. Anne Street<br />Tickets: $26.25 Call 780-459-1542 or visit

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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