Jeudi, 13 juin 2024
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    Cello suite with Stéphane Tétreault

    Internationally-acclaimed Montreal cellist Stéphane Tétreault first picked up the cello at the FACE School when he was seven-years-old. By the time Tétreault was nine he was studying with Yuli Turovsky, the legendary Moscow-born cellist and conductor who founded the I Musici de Montréal Chamber Orchestra. Turovsky was the musical prodigy’s mentor for more than a decade, until Turovsky’s death in 2013.

    Today, Tétreault holds a master’s degree in Music Performance from the Université de Montréal, has won countless prestigious international music awards, was the first-ever Soloist-in-Residence at the Orchestre Métropolitain where he performed alongside Grammy-winning Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin during the 2014-2015 season, made his debut with the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Finnish conductor John Storgård in 2018, and has recorded several albums, including the just-released Claude Dubussy: Images retrouvées (ATMA Classique) with acclaimed pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard, their second volume of works by Debussy transcribed for cello and piano.

    The out cellist, now 31, has also found happiness off the stage and found a gay role model in Nézet-Séguin. Stéphane and I recently sat down for a candid Q&A which has been edited for length and clarity.

    Congratulations on your new album Claude Dubussy: Images retrouvées. How did you and Olivier Hébert-Bouchard get together for this project?
    Stéphane Tétreault : We’ve been playing together for over 10 years. The Debussy cello and piano sonata was a huge piece of our repertoire, one of our favourite works in the cello and piano repertoire. So Olivier had the idea of making arrangements of some of Debussy’s lesser-known piano works, as well as some of his more famous works, and asked me if I would go on the adventure with him. Given that Debussy has always been one of my all-time favorite composers, I instantly said yes. It was a wonderful pre-pandemic project. But then COVID happened and we had fewer occasions to present the concert to an audience. So we went into the recording studio. We also began playing live again when venues reopened. It’s been a really great adventure.

    You are incredibly prolific. Are you a work-a-holic?
    Stéphane Tétreault : (Laughs) I definitely tend to work a little too much. The thing is I usually have a lot of different projects on the go at the same time. But I only choose projects that inspire me. So yes, I do work long hours!

    You studied with Yuli Turovsky for more than 10 years and earned a master’s degree in Music Performance from the Université de Montréal. How did your studies shape you as a musician and person?
    Stéphane Tétreault : I started to work with Yuli when I was nine-years-old after my music teacher at FACE organized an audition. Yuli took me on as a full-time student and was instrumental in my cello upbringing and career. But I would go even further than that and say he was an incredible human being to be around. He was very inspiring and incredibly hard-working. What was really special was a lesson never finished within an hour or two, because even when we finished talking about a particular piece, or finished playing the cello, what was really amazing were our conversations about life and the various composers that he knew from the Soviet Union. Yuli had a major impact on who I am as a person today, as well as who I am as a cellist. It was a privilege to be his student.

    I first saw you perform with the Orchestre Classique de Montréal and their late artistic
    director Maestro Boris Brott who championed young performers like yourself.

    Stéphane Tétreault : Boris was so special. I played my first concerto with him when I was 12-years-old. I played with him and the OCM many times and he was so encouraging and warm. Boris asked me to play a few educational matinees and workshops when I was 14. Then when I was 17 or 18 I started collaborating with the OCM quite often. When Boris liked an artist he was very loyal. And like everybody in the industry, I was devastated by his tragic death. But I am thrilled to see the OCM is doing so well. Boris would be very proud.

    You were the first-ever Soloist-in-Residence of the Orchestre Métropolitain. What was it like working with Yannick Nézet-Séguin?
    Stéphane Tétreault : Yannick is one of a kind. He’s a very inspiring human being, that’s for sure, and one of the most accomplished artists I’ve ever met and had the privilege of working with. I think the first time I played with the OM was in 2010 when I was 17. Afterwards Yannick invited me to play one of the main series concerts. Then taking part in their first European tour in 2017 remains one of my most cherished memories.

    Was Yannick also a gay role model for you?
    Stéphane Tétreault : Yannick has been role model for me on many fronts, he has been proudly out for many, many years. He has been transcendent and paved the path for many musicians to be comfortable in their own skin. The first time I worked with him I think I was already out. He was very supportive. I think I was lucky to be raised in Montreal in an artistic field where most people are very open, loving and caring. Ever since I did my coming out in my early adult years, I have always been met with open arms.

    What was it like coming out to your family?
    Stéphane Tétreault : I came out to my family when I was 17. It became increasingly obvious in my teens. My parents weren’t surprised and fully accepted me for who I am. When I came out I also felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders.

    You are in a relationship with music educator Benjamin Blais. 
    Stéphane Tétreault : Dating and relationships can be complicated but with Ben it’s never been complicated. I would say ours is definitely the most natural relationship I’ve ever had. I knew it early on, it has been very easygoing. And we’ve been together over two and a half years now!

    Since 2012 your instrument is the famous 1707 “Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini”
    Stradivarius cello, on generous loan by the Desmarais family.

    Stéphane Tétreault : I met Mrs. Jacqueline Desmarais – well-known for her support of young artists – after playing at a benefit concert for which I had also done a television interview. The next day I got a phone call from her assistant who invited me to play for Mrs. Desmarais, which I did. Over the next year we developed a fairly close friendship. She came to my concerts quite a bit. Then we began to speak about finding a cello for me to play.

    It just so happened that the Countess of Stainlein cello was on the market in Boston because its owner, Bernard Greenhouse, founding cellist of the Beaux Arts Trio, had passed away in 2011. His instructions were he preferred that it go to a young cellist who could use it for many years to come.

    You tested many cellos in Boston, New York and London before Mrs. Jacqueline Desmarais bid for the Countess of Stainlein cello at auction.
    Stéphane Tétreault : It was clearly the superior instrument.

    How much was her winning bid?
    Stéphane Tétreault : To be honest, I don’t know. But the minimum bid was $6 million.

    You have won many prizes for your work. Do they make a difference?
    Stéphane Tétreault : Definitely. The recognition – especially peer recognition – is always very touching, and winning is good for visibility.

    Are you happiest performing onstage?
    Stéphane Tétreault : There is a certain dynamic between being lost in the moment and giving yourself to the music. But being with my loved ones and with my boyfriend also makes me happy. It would be difficult for me to choose where I am happiest, but I would say a combo of everything!

    INFOS | Claude Dubussy: Images retrouvées by Stéphane Tétreault and Olivier Hébert-Bouchard, released by ATMA Classique records.
    https://stephanetetreault.com for his concert calendar

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