"ever immaculate, ever imaginative"
"possibly the finest Beethoven since the time of Wilhelm Kempff"
"Lortie is one of perhaps half a dozen pianists who is worth dropping everything to go and hear."
French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie has attracted critical acclaim throughout Europe, Asia and the United States. He has extended his interpretative voice across a broad range of repertoire rather than choosing to specialise in one particular style. The Times, describing his playing as “ever immaculate, ever imaginative”, has identified Lortie’s “combination of total spontaneity and meditated ripeness that only great pianists have”.
Louis Lortie has performed complete Beethoven sonata cycles at Wigmore Hall, Berlin Philharmonie and the Sala Grande del Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan. Die Welt described his Berlin performances as “possibly the finest Beethoven since the time of Wilhelm Kempff.” As both pianist and conductor with the Montreal Symphony, he has performed all five Beethoven concertos and all of the Mozart concertos. He has also won widespread acclaim for his interpretation of Ravel and Chopin. He performed the complete works of Ravel in London and Montreal for the BBC and CBC, and is renowned all over the world for his performances of the complete Chopin Études. He celebrated the bicentenary of Liszt’s birth in 2011 by performing the complete Années de pèlerinage at international music capitals and festivals, and he returned to Carnegie Hall in April, 2014 to perform it there. His Chandos recording of this monumental work was named one of the ten best of 2012 by the New Yorker magazine.
This season Louis performs with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Bergen Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lille, Adelaide Symphony, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin with Sir Mark Elder and give recitals at Wigmore Hall, Jersey Arts Centre and in Vancouver and Sao Paulo.
From October 2016, Louis Lortie will become the Master in Residence at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Brussels.
This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.
Wigmore Hall / BBC Radio 3 lunchtime series: George Benjamin, Chopin
Wigmore Hall, April 2017
Louis Lortie [...] approaches the composer [Chopin] in a way that feels fully authentic, yet it is a manner far removed from the patrician elegance often applied to his music. Never afraid to work the piano hard in his account of the 24 Preludes that dominated this lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall, Lortie stressed the stormy Romantic side of Chopin very convincingly. [...] That miniature tone poem nicknamed the “Raindrop” Prelude was beautifully sustained, with Lortie making the most of his instrument’s dusky tone, but the Fazioli also thundered powerfully in the middle of this piece. [...] Lortie demonstrated his flair for programming by prefacing Chopin’s miniatures with a set of modernist miniatures.[...] From a tantalising prologue through the first few preludes, Lortie played with intensity and wit.[...] this was an interesting juxtaposition from a thoughtful pianist.
John Allison, The Telegraph ****
[...] beginning with a grabbing, absorbing account of George Benjamin’s Messiaen-esque Shadowlines. [...] In Chopin’s 24 Preludes there was again great attention paid to detail. Lortie often took his time without ever feeling sluggish, although he didn’t shy away from a more impressionistic delivery when appropriate; fortissimo was rarely used, and therefore all the more impactful when it was. [...] Even if there is no consensus on whether these Preludes were intended to be heard sequentially, Lortie certainly convinced [...] it was the way the whole fitted together that stood out, and our understanding was further enhanced by the set’s conceptual relationship to the Benjamin. Altogether this was a superb instalment of the Wigmore/Radio 3 lunchtime series, combining an ingenious programme with Lortie’s deep sympathy for the music which added a profound emotional dimension to his technical achievement.
Barnaby Page, Classical Source
Meany Hall for the Performing Arts, January 2017
There was much to admire in this program: Lortie has a solid and often brilliant technique, a wealth of interpretive ideas, and enough bravura to carry off these works that were designed to display spectacular dexterity. […] In Meany Theater, it was clear right from the opening etude that Lortie was interested in depth as well as technical brilliance. Each piece was fully characterized, from the grandiose C Major opener of Op. 10 to the lyrical warmth of the third etude, the famous E Major one so beloved of concert artists. Lortie played some of the quieter etudes with serene delicacy and an almost hazy, blurred focus, but there was plenty of thunder-power in the blistering octaves of the B Minor etude of Op. 25. The playing was remarkably clean, considering the nonstop digital challenges in many of these pieces. […] The pianist invested a wonderful subtlety in the softly fading B Minor Prelude (No. 6), and the famous “Raindrop” Prelude (No. 15) emerged as if in a delicate mist. And the B-flat Minor (No. 16) was suitably wild and furious, as Lortie pushed the tempo inexorably forward. […] the recitalist finally provided a dreamy, introspective reading of Chopin’s D-Flat Major Nocturne (Op. 27, No. 2): a little “night music” that was the perfect gesture of farewell.”
Melinda Bargreen, Seattle Times
A Fauré Recital, Volume 1
CHANDOS 10915, released September 2016
There’s no mistaking Lortie’s affection for the music, nor his sensitivity to its delicate high-lights and sensuous shadows. His technical control is unflinching, whether in the starlit glimmers in Nocturne No. 6, or the virtual ambidexterity required for the Barcarolle No. 5. Everything is finessed without the succumbing to preciousness. He has a knack for creating atmosphere through ideal tempo plus judicious balance of tone of voicing: the Sicilienne of the Pelléas Suite is a case in point, as is the Pavane. And as the fleeting, side-stepping harmonies of the Preludes whirl by, you are left marvelling at the intricate beauty of Fauré’s unique style – which is, hopefully, any great pianist’s ultimate aim.
Jessica Duchen,BBC Music Magazine *****
Lortie avoids the dry lexicographic approach in favour of arranging works with an eye towards contrast and variety of affect. This philosophy, particularly successful here, combined with Lortie’s deeply personal yet naturally expressive piano playing, whets the appetite for further releases in the series.
Patrick Rucker, Gramophone
Lortie astonishes with a frequent bell-like touch. […] Lortie knows his composer’s voice and uses it as beautifully as ever.
Alex Baran, WholeNote magazine
Chamber Music Prom; Rossini, Fauré, Poulenc, Liszt
Cadogan Hall, London; August 2016
These works, displaying Liszt at his most extravagant, were full of Italian holiday sounds and activities – dancing, singing, the bustle of streetlife – and Lortie delivered them with a flamboyance and wit which had the audience cheerfully grinning and applauding, while a sunny, holiday mood infused Cadogan Hall. Lortie's clean pedalling, transparent sound and acute sense of pacing brought the music to life with an enchanting vibrancy and colour, and the central Nocturne was particularly lovely for its rippling left hand figures, suggesting waves gently lapping at the shoreline. Lortie highlighted the colours and textures of Fauré's writing in the lower register contrasted with some delightfully clear bell-like sounds in the treble. The combined effect was atmospheric and expressive. Speaking of his music inspired by his Italian travels, Liszt said, "I've tried to portray in music a few of my strongest sensations and most lively impressions," and in Venezia e Napoli Liszt's imagination is certainly given full rein, his musical images perfectly captured by Lortie's intelligent virtuosity. The Gondoliera was particularly arresting, at once poetic, sensuous and emotional, while the frenetic Tarantella brought this fine lunchtime recital to a high-spirited, rollicking conclusion.
Frances Wilson, Bachtrack ****
Saint-Saëns Piano Concerto No.5 with Dallas Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jaap Van Zweden
Lortie is a dynamic performer. [...] his playing was utterly charming [...] delicate and sensitive without being fussy. His use of pedal produced a wide variety of tonal colors. This was technically and musically proficient playing of the highest caliber.
J. Robin Coffelt, TheaterJones
Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms Recital at Wigmore Hall, London
Brahms’s F-minor Sonata crowned the recital, Lortie in command of it from start to finish, publicly majestic and privately contemplative in the first movement, its exposition repeated, the whole searchingly meaningful and with subito changes of dynamics fully encompassed by the outstanding Bösendorfer. With the Andante [...] Lortie moved into confidential territory; it was spellbindingly sensitive and reached a refulgent climax. [...] the Sonata’s ultimate coda was regal in its poise and summation.
Colin Anderson, Classical Source
Liszt’s Totentanz with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Ken-David Masur
Boston Symphony Hall, November 2015
Louis Lortie’s [...] Liszt was autumn crisp, as moonlit night clear as New England ever gets. In cliché talk, Lortie, it can be said and meant, “owns Totentanz.” His virtuosity bespeaks poetry as much as wizardry. He had the Steinway sounding its extremes, all the while extricating any and all excesses lying in tempting wait for the soloist. For the extremes to which composer Liszt took to vary the Dies Irae chant, Lortie shed each in its own super Romantic era light, then masterfully tied them all together in a statement that was as menacing as it was enticing. [...] Masur and BSO were there all the way with Lortie. Their thrilling performance ratcheted up still another notch for a blockbuster finale to the death dance.
David Patterson, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
Rachmaninoff: Works for Two Pianos with Hélène Mercier
CHANDOS 10882, released October 2015
This is Rachmaninov-playing that is hard to resist. The latter (agitato) section of ‘La nuit… l’amour’ and the Valse from Op. 17 in particular are tremendous.
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
This disc is superb: buy it!
Guy Rickards, International Piano Magazine
Poulenc: Piano Concertos and Aubade with Hélène Mercier and the BBC Philharmonic
Released September 2015
Lortie and Mercier never leave one in doubt of their delight in, or idiomatic understanding of, Poulenc's music; their rapport is complete in the Sonata for Two Pianos and two contrasting 'encores', the touching Elégie and the exhilarating, ultra-Parisian L'Embarquement pour Cythère, in which they positively waltz along the boulevards.
Sunday Times Album of the Week
The concerto, for the most part, certainly bubbles with joie de vivre; but music does not play itself, and the distinct attraction of this performance by Lortie and the BBC Philharmonic under Edward Gardner is the way in which orchestral colour, as well as piano texture, so clearly defined and zestfully articulated. Lortie is joined by Hélène Mercier for cracking performances of the Two-Piano Concerto and the Sonata for four hands [...], their distinctive acerbities given whiplash emphasis by both pianists [...] and yet with their more lyrical leanings tenderly voiced. There are valuable interpretative insights here for even the most seasoned of Poulenc aficionados.
Geoffrey Norris, Gramophone
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s 2015-16 Opening Concert with Hélène Mercier
Bass Performance Hall, September 2015
Pianists Louis Lortie and Hélène Mercier gave it [Mozart’s Two-Piano Concerto in E-flat major] shape, vitality and lovely nuance.
Scott Cantrell, The Dallas Morning News
Aldeburgh Music Recital; Debussy, Benjamin, Scriabin and Chopin
Lortie pulled out all the stops for La cathedral engloutie and the submerged bells ballooned brilliantly [...] From the opening Agitato bars of the first of Chopin’s set of 24 preludes the recital did indeed soar and the constant, often quicksilver change of mood and tempo created its own frisson. The more extrovert pieces had a sharp edge and elan that were thoroughly exhilarating. The more lyrical moments, such as the opening of No 15, Sostenuto were treated with a simple elegance and grace and the sombre steps of No 20, Largo seemed to carry an extra degree of foreboding. The performance was a superb demonstration of welding 24 contrasting pieces into a convincing and satisfying whole – but that is what great performers do.
Gareth Jones, In Suffolk
Chopin Vol 4: Waltzes and Nocturnes
CHANDOS 10852; released March 2015
Lortie is like Gene Kelly on the dance floor, favouring fast tempos and crystalline, lightweight fingerwork.
Pianist Magazine, June-July 2015 *****
Lortie's virtues consistently abound: impeccable elegance, a tonal palette of aristocratic refinement and variety, an apparently effortless virtuosity, deployed with exemplary discretion, and a gift for 'vocal' inflection which should be the envy of numerous rivals.
Jeremy Siepman, BBC Music Magazine *****
The playing here is simply exquisite beyond description [...] All the Lortie stylistic trademark—gorgeously luminous and rounded tone, limpid and pellucid legato and articulation, finely shaded nuances of touch and dynamics, impeccable senses of rhythm and tempo with just delicate hints of rubato—are present in spades [...] This is Chopin playing of sublime genius, and confirms the landmark status of this ongoing series in the composer’s discography; highest possible recommendation.
James A. Altena, Fanfare Magazine
there are many things to admire – the exquisite rubato in Op 69 No 1, the chattering middle section of Op 18 and the insouciant playfulness of the A flat Waltz are among a string of delightful successes [...]
Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
Fauré, Scriabin and Bach Piano Recital
Sydney City Recital Hall, April 2015
The 24 Scriabin preludes arrived like cinema curtains opening. Lortie flew at them, demonstrating one of the most agile and percussive left hands in the business.
Fraser Beath McEwing, J-Wire
Franck and Mozart with Yan Pascal Tortelier and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra
Sydney Opera House, April 2015
In Franck's Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra, Opus 46, pianist Lortie was eloquent, poised and incisive, bringing pearly clarity to piano textures, comely expressiveness to the shape of phrases, and strength to the architectural shape. His concentration is intense, almost obsessive at times, and attracts the listener's ear in a way which commands attention [...] In Mozart's Rondo in D for piano and orchestra, K 382, Lortie was imaginatively playful, colouring the music expressively while maintaining simple clarity.
Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald
Beethoven and Liszt Piano Recital at Wigmore Hall, London
The French-Canadian pianist gave a powerful, intelligent performance, topped off with careless grandeur [...] Lortie never stumbles. In the whole evening there was barely a blemish. More importantly, he focused a penetrating intelligence on every chord and phrase, as well as perfect control [...] Lortie may have analytical intelligence and subtlety of touch to burn, but what put the stamp of greatness on this recital was the way these things were topped with a sort of careless grandeur [...] summoning reserves of sheer power that made the walls shake. Lortie has it all.
Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph*****
[...] on his very best form, just as unflinching in the way in which he confronted all the technical challenges, but shaping them into a totally convincing view of the sonata, in which nothing was shirked or overlooked. This was superb Liszt playing, no doubt.
Andrew Clements, The Guardian****
[...] Lortie returned a mere 20 minutes later to tackle Liszt’s equally daunting sonata. It begins with the hushed intimacy of a whispered conversation but soon develops into a blazing row between the left hand’s rich bass resonances and the right hand’s liquid crystal runs. Showing even greater control than he had in Beethoven, Lortie had the measure of its mood swings. No encores required.
Nick Kimberley, London Evening Standard
[...] Lortie was wonderful [...] Lortie’s technique had become transcendental, his playing incandescent, and his journeying of the music to its full-circle conclusion was totally inevitable. When he sounded a pealing, long-held bass note to end the work, it was if the music had been going there all the time, and beyond to stillness and silence. When applause finally broke it was loud and long. If encores are to be earned, then Lortie should have played a hatful. He refrained from any more music and was right to do so: the juxtaposition of these Sonatas would have become misaligned.
Colin Anderson, Classical Source
Two of the highest and craggiest Piano Sonata mountains for any pianist to climb, Louis Lortie paired the ‘Hammerklavier’ and the Liszt B minor at Wigmore Hall and he scaled each magnificently, musical perception and imagination literally hand-in-hand with music-serving virtuosity [...] Lortie was tenacious from the off [...] If encores are to be earned, then Lortie should have played a hatful.
Colin Anderson, Classical Source
Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic
Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, March 2015
In the opening Allegro, Lortie’s exquisitely shaped phrasings were perfectly matched by the orchestra, making this a true partnership. The lyrical second movement unfolded with elegance and charm, characteristics that Lortie possesses in spades.
Rick Rogers, The Oklahoman
Fauré and Scriabin Piano Recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
At the QEH, the Canadian pianist Louis Lortie's unusual programme interwove preludes by Fauré and Scriabin, and evinced a technique of absolute mastery.
Paul Driver, The Sunday Times
Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the San Diego Symphony
Jacobs Music Center, San Diego; November 2014
And what about Lortie? Is there a pianist who can coax more colors out of a piano than Lortie? He had the Steinway purring with delight in a definitive interpretation of the Saint-Saens concerto. Even when he brought the instrument to a roar in portions of the concerto’s outer movements, it was a very smooth roar.
James Chute, U~T San Diego