An Interview with Jutta Puchammer-Sédillot: the Austrian who brought the French style of viola playing to Canada


On October 5th at 12:10 p.m. Jutta Puchammer-Sédillot will present Concert Pieces commissioned by the Conservatory of Paris between1896 and 1940

Violists are special people” begins Jutta Puchammer-Sédillot, Vice-President of the International Viola Society, viola soloist and professor at the University of Montreal. “We respect and give support to each other. Congresses are always an opportunity to strengthen friendships, forge new relationships, open up to others, compare performance practices. Learn. What can be more important for a musician?
A diploma with honors at the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts and a Master of Music at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, with mentors of the caliber of Siegfried Führlinger in Vienna and Heidi Castleman in the United States. This is the background of Jutta Puchammer-Sédillot, who will give a recital of French repertoire October 5 at 12:10. Professor of viola and chamber music at the Université de Montréal, viola soloist in the Laval Symphony Orchestra in Quebec, teacher in international master classes in France, Vienna, Switzerland, Belgium, USA (Juilliard, Curtis, Heifetz Institute ..), she often performs Canadian music for the viola, many works composed specifically for her. Research also plays an important role in Jutta’s life: among her activities is that of researching and performing French music of the period between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has a publishing agreement with Schott (and with Navona Label-USA) to publish the Pieces de Concours of Paris from the period of 1896 to 1940. The publications will be available at the 43rd International Viola Congress in Cremona!
Montréal became your adopted city almost 30 years ago. What did you find there?
First of all, love! I first went to Canada to meet my former pen-pal – now my husband. Regarding music, at the time the scene in Canada was effervescent and musicians were living well. There were many active people: Robert Verebes (d. 2016), for example, held master classes wherever he traveled with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and almost all of the young professional violists came from his class at the Conservatory of Montreal. There was Stephen Kondacs, a professor at McGill University: he was the first violist ever to play the Bartók Concerto in Canada. There were also many European violists who immigrated in the 1950’s. In western Canada there was Gerald Stanek, an important figure in the Vancouver area who formed many excellent performers. The Canadian Viola Society was already in existence.
And now?
Unfortunately in recent years the principal classical music radio stations, various concert associations and some orchestras have closed. There are new concert associations that have smaller budgets and mostly employ young emerging talents. There are also new orchestras formed by young conductors but they are hiring fellow students to play for (almost) nothing: a potentially dangerous situation for young violists who need to spend more time on their studies, in the hopes of getting a future position with a steady job in a good orchestra. Now the situation is complex. Even small well-established orchestras are struggling to survive due to lack of subsidies and cuts to culture. Classical music is going through a difficult time and you have to find creative ways to emerge. I have to say that some young groups are managing to do it quite well, and they undoubtedly do succeed! When I arrived in Canada I performed mainly in recitals, the easiest way to get some broadcasts. Most years I recorded a recital with unknown compositions of the period at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century: I presented an English program, then a German program, an Austrian program, etc. Music out of print, for example, the sonatas of Bax, Bliss, Bowen, Prokofiev, Dale, etc., I was able to get through interlibrary loan. There was a lot to discover and the chamber music recitals were recorded, as were the festivals, summer concerts, etc. The musicians made their living that way.
Are the International Associations of the Viola and the International Viola Congresses still relevant?
More than ever! I love the congresses: since 1997 I have attended all but two of them. Today I am the former President of the Canadian Viola Society and Vice President of the International Viola Society. In these settings you can hear performances of music that you can’t hear anywhere else. Each country makes its own contribution to the conference and every event is unique for this reason. An International Viola Congress is primarily a meeting place for us violists, wherever it takes place. I reconnected with Austrians in Adelaide, Australia, who I had not seen for twenty years. Congresses keep us informed on where and how the world of the viola is moving. I myself have organized an International Viola Congress in Montreal: my goal was to bring French violists to Quebec. Five French violists came: it was the first congress to have French participants! It was also, I believe, the first time that Bruno Giuranna attended a congress, at least in the Americas. Another task that I set for myself was to bring Europe to Canada. So I invited an artist from each country and tried to get funding from their respective embassies. There were Barbara Westphal from Germany, Siegfried Führlinger from Austria, Bruno Giuranna from Italy, Lars Anders Tomter from Norway, Henrik Frendin from Sweden, Michael Kugel from Belgium, Kim Kashkashian from the United States; Tamestit, Adamopoulos, Bône, Frederic Lainé and Mikalkakos from France. It was the first time that there were so many international performers in an International Viola Congress. The hardest thing was to finance it all. Our final budget was $120,000 and at one point I even feared that I would have to mortgage the house in order to meet the costs! Luckily we came out even, but this became clear only six months after the Congress.
What message would you like to give to those who will participate in the Congress in Cremona?
Absorb as much as possible from the congress: watch, listen, learn! Make contacts, congratulate with the players. We should not be competing, but learning from each other. Personally, I can’t wait to come to Cremona. See you soon!
The 43rd International Viola Cnngress is organized by the Associazione Italiana della Viola, with
Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale, Ambasciata d’Austria a Roma, Ambasciata del Belgio, Embassy of Canada, Ambasciata della Repubblica Popolare Cinese in Italia, Ambasciata di Finlandia, Ambasciata del Messico in Italia, Kingdom of the Netherlands, Istituto Polacco.
Patronage and Support
Regione Lombardia.
Patronage and Collaboration
Comune di Cremona, Camera di Commercio di Cremona, Dipartimento di Musicologia e Beni Culturali dell’Università di Pavia.
Fondazione Stauffer, Consolato Generale della Repubblica di Germania a Milano, Fondazione Comunitaria della Provincia di Cremona, Fondazione D’Addario, Jargar, Pirastro.
Museo del Violino, Istituto Superiore di Studi Musicali Claudio Monteverdi, Scuola Internazionale di Liuteria, Consorzio Liutai “Antonio Stradivari” Cremona, Associazione I Filarmonici Onlus, I Virtuosi Italiani, Cremona Summer Festival 2016, Liceo Artistico Statale di Porta Romana di Firenze, Archi magazine, Teatrionline, il mio giornale, Fermata Spettacolo web magazine.

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