The Winner of 2007 International Web Concert Hall
Elizabeth and Marcel Bergmann (Canada - Piano Duo )
us about your musical background?
Elizabeth: I began piano lessons at age seven. My parents had
already purchased a piano and as a young girl, I was very intrigued by
it. So when it came time for me to start the lessons, I was ready for
Marcel: My parents enrolled me in an early childhood music
education class when I was five. Soon after, I showed an interest in
piano and percussion instruments and so I started piano lessons at the
age of six.
Did you study any other musical instrument?
Elizabeth: Yes, I took one year of violin lessons and a year of
guitar. In high school, I played flute and I took voice lessons for many
Marcel: As a teenager, I taught myself to play the guitar so that
I would be able to play some Beatles and Folk tunes. I also had half a
year of Cello lessons in high school and took Saxophone as my second
instrument during my undergraduate music studies.
Who were your teachers?
Elizabeth: My main teachers include Cameron Watson (Medicine
Hat College), Helmut Brauss (University of Alberta), Arie Vardi (Hochschule
fuer Musik und Theater, Hannover), Pat Parr (University of Toronto) and
Jean-Eudes Vaillancourt (University of Montreal).
Marcel: My main teachers include Ellen Etzold, Jo Havenith,
Rainer Fuchs (Musikhochschule Muenchen), Begonia Uriarte, Arie Vardi and
… and what are the first and best qualities you remember?
All my teachers cared very much about guiding me in the right
direction. They always talked about the importance of not separating
technique and musicality- as they go hand in hand. All my teachers
encouraged me but at the same time being critical and demanding the most
Marcel: I agree … all our teachers had a great sense of
integrity- both, musically and as human beings. They always encouraged
us to pursue our own path and to develop our specific musical interests
How did your teacher influence you as a musician?
Elizabeth: I think each teacher influenced me in a particular
way. For example, from one teacher, I received a great background
information about the German composers such as Beethoven, Mozart and
Bach; from another, I was introduced to Keith Jarrett and that ignited
my love for jazz; yet another, I learned to focus more on the
spiritual part of performing and what it means to be a performer; and
the later, I became more focused on ton production etc. It seems that each one offered me
to become the musician who I am today and they certainly did.
Marcel: Pretty much the same way for me too…
did your friend, parents, etc. influence you as a musician?
Elizabeth: When I was young, my parents listened to classical
music at home. I remember often listening to Bach and Beethoven,
since those were my parent’s favorite. That is probably
why I identify with them well; my childhood friends were very supportive
of me as a musician. They came to my concerts and were always proud of
my accomplishment. The friends in University were the ones who I
probably received the most support. We would sight-read through things
and listen to music for hours. I was introduced to a lot of ‘stuff’
during that period of my life.
Marcel: My parents were quite interested in both classical and
popular music - especially Jazz and French Chansons. So I grew up with a
large collection of records, ranging from Bach to Ravel to Oscar
Peterson etc. Also, one of my uncles played trumpet in a popular
Dixieland Band for over 25 years-and I listened to all of his recordings
on a regular basis as well.
How long have you performed as a duo?
Our first performance together was in 1989 when we had the opportunity
to play Bach concerto for two pianos with orchestra in Greece.
However, we seriously started to perform intensely in 1991.
thesis title for the DMA?
Our degrees are the European equivalent to a DMA awarded in the US.
However, in Germany, one does not write a thesis since this is a
specialized performance degree. Our area of specialization was duo
Can you elaborate on this topic for the American audience?
In order for us to acquire this degree, we had to perform several
recitals on two pianos, a chamber music concert with 2 pianos, and
finally, a performance with orchestra.
Did you both decided to enroll to this program because you started
We were already playing as a duo and decided to pursue further studies
in Hannover where we studied previously. The 'Solistenklasse' was
designed originally for solo performers only, therefore, the administration at the
school was interested in having us be the first duo to be admitted.
They started this program and we were the first to be admitted and
completed the degree. Since then, several duos have done the same.
What are some of your upcoming musical project?
We have many projects in progress. In addition to our scheduled
performances, we will be recording a CD on chamber works by Canadian
composer R. Murray Schafer with our contemporary chamber ensemble,
We are also very excited to be a part of a theatre festival in Calgary
in the month of January where we will be performing Marcel’s 4 piano
arrangement of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. We will be collaborating
with the Alberta Ballet who will be dancing to our live performances.
Also, we are thrilled that our recording of this work will be released
shortly on Brilliant Classics.
Tell us more about your contemporary chamber ensemble Land’s End.
We joined the ensemble in 2001. We came to Calgary in 1999 and
started to play with them on a regular basis. At one point, they asked
us if we would be interested joining the group. Of course, we said we
would love to!
‘Land's End’? Can you tell us more about the ensemble name?
Land's End refers to Land's End in Cornwall, England, which reaches
out into the Atlantic Ocean into what were uncharted waters before the
time of Columbus. The chamber ensemble of the same name was created to
explore the boundaries of contemporary music, and to create compelling
Marcel: A new CD of works for cello & piano, which the cellist of
our group (Land’s End Chamber Ensemble)-Beth Root Sandvoss –and I
recorded at the Banff Center last December will be released soon on the
Arktos label. I contributed a composition as part of this project.
As a composer, I have a very exciting long-term project that will keep
me busy throughout the next year. It’s a kind of chamber opera and will
involve our Land’s End ensemble as well as four singers/actors. The
premiere will be in January 2009 as part of the annual Calgary High
How is this ensemble being funded?
Land's End Chamber Ensemble performs several concerts as part of its
own series in Calgary as well as records and tours. We receive funding
from several government agencies both provincially and federally as well
as local foundations. In addition, we also rely on our ticket sales and
receive private sponsorship.
How do you select repertoire for the concerts?
Generally, we gather information on who we are
performing for. If it requires us to perform series contemporary
works, then we are restricted to include such repertoire. We also try and
look at what other programs we are preparing for and attempt to ‘double
up’ on those works as well. We always try to find a balance of works
from the mainstream piano duo repertoire to include some crossover and
more contemporary things as well. Since we support the development of
new works, we also try to include something Canadian on our programs as
well. Marcel has written a number of works for us over the past years
and so we often feature some of his pieces as well.
How many concerts do you have a
On average between 20 and 30
Do you perform for any youth programs for promoting the interest of
Yes, we always try to plan an extra 'outreach' performance where we can,
in combination with our main concerts. Just last week, we played for
more than 300 children in Toronto at the Royal Conservatory of Music. We very
much enjoy this kind of an audience because of the interaction with the
children. We talk about the music we are about to play in an informal
way and always leave much time for questions.
What period music do you enjoy playing the most and why?
We enjoy playing almost everything but we especially enjoy performing
our own works and arrangements of other works.
your opinion, what is your strength in your playing as a piano duo?
Our strength lies in our communication with one another on stage, our
communication with our audience as well as our versatility as
performers. We love the interaction with the audiences and very much
enjoy introducing the pieces we play. We think that our varied
repertoire, including Marcel’s compositions and arrangements that he
made specifically for our duo is something that is quite unique in the
duo piano world.
What do you hope to accomplish as a musician and as an ensemble?
We hope to reach as many audiences as possible. We realize that music is
a very powerful tool that can give people hope, strength and enjoyment.
Can you give an example on what type of hope and strength do you
believe music can deliver to people?
Years ago, we were involved with Yehudi Menuhin's - Live Music Now
concerts. We played many concerts in Germany for those less fortunate
and for those who did not have the possibility to hear classical
concerts. Perhaps some of them had never heard a classical concert
before they heard us. We played for refugees and for those who were very
lonely and isolated. Although we could not necessarily speak their
language, the music made it possible for us to reach them.
We found that many people were moved by listening to music and uplifted them
to a level they have never experienced before while giving them positive
hope for their unknown
futures. Music can transcends all barriers and unites people on a level that
is not describable in terms of words and definitions. This is why it can
be such a powerful spiritual tool in helping people also cope with
trauma and stress. It is also used as a therapeutic tool in music
therapy. Everything found in human emotion can be expressed through
music and this is what we believe is the thing that people can identify
with when listening to music. It doesn't really matter whether you are
playing for an audience of inner-city children or sophisticated educated
western European listeners- we are all the same on some level and that
is the very thing that unites us all as human beings. We suppose that,
in a way, we are therapists of a sort.
Sometimes it is simply wonderful for them to come and leave their
worries and cares behind and let them be taken to another world just
sitting back and listening. We hope to maintain an active
career for a long time and will continue to enjoy performing as we do
today! We also hope to include more and more of our own arrangements and
works for two pianos.
Do you like any other forms of art?
We love art and literature in general- whenever we have a chance visit a
good museum, we try to do that. We are also interested in the important
architectural accomplishments in each place we visit. Some of our
favorite writers include: Goethe, Tolstoy, Proust, Thomas Mann, Max
Frisch, Marquez….and of course many others (including contemporary
Do you have a hobby?
We wish we had more time for our hobbies! Elizabeth enjoys painting,
cooking and gardening. Both of us enjoy watching movies and like hiking,
biking, cross-country skiing and spending time at the beach and ocean.
was the music that changed your life?
Elizabeth: Brahms d-minor piano concerto, Bach St. Matthaeus Passion,
and Beethoven late string quartets
Marcel: Beethoven piano sonatas, Mozart’s late symphonies and his
Don Giovanni, Chopin’s preludes op.28, Schumann’s Carnival, Schubert’s
Impromptus, just to name a few…
What was the event that changed your life?
Marcel: In terms of musical experiences, there were certainly
some incredible concerts that had deepen and intensify my passion for
music - e.g. a performance of the
Jacques Loussier Trio,
a number of performances by the pianist Friedrich Gulda (among them a
memorable concert on two pianos together with Chick Corea), the Alban
Berg String Quartet…and pianists Igor Shukow and Radu Lupu. My first
performance with orchestra had substantial impact on my later choice to
become a musician as well.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of a good performer?
Elizabeth: I think a good performer must be a convincing
communicator first and foremost. Of course, he/she must have something
they want to say, but if they do not have the ability to demonstrate and
articulate this, then all the wonderful ideas in the world are in vain.
A good performer must have a strong vision, understand musical style and
structure, have a sound technical ability, a concept of sound and tonal
production and love what they do.
Marcel: Yes, stage presence is definitely very important –all
important artists seem to have a high degree on that, a charismatic
quality that the audience feels immediately when they appear on stage..way before they actually start to play.
did you learn about the International Web Concert Hall Competition?
We happened to read about the competition one day as we were researching
other possibilities to increase our profile on the web and thought it
would be a good idea for us to apply... and we think this is a wonderful way of reaching other audiences and opening
up the possibilities to those who might have these difficulties in
attending a competition normally. However, experiencing the live concert
performance whether as a performer or audience member is something very
unique and perhaps cannot be completely simulated using the digital
On be half of the Web Concert Hall, we would like to thank you for
your time and we wish all the success.
Bergmann Duo -
Interviewed by Webconcerthall in November, 2007