Alexandre Kantorow Named 2024 Gilmore Artist
September 13, 2023
French pianist Alexandre Kantorow has been named the recipient of the 2024 Gilmore Artist Award. The Award was announced today by Dr. Pierre van der Westhuizen, Executive and Artistic Director of the Irving S. Gilmore International Piano Festival. The Gilmore Artist Award is presented on a non-competitive basis to an exceptional pianist who, regardless of age or nationality, is a performing artist and a profound musician with both charisma and breadth of musicianship; who desires a performing career as a major international concert artist and can make a real impact on music; and whose developing career can benefit from the enhancement of the Award’s money and prestige. Often referred to as music’s answer to the MacArthur Foundation “genius grants,” Mr. Kantorow receives $300,000: a $50,000 cash grant to be used at his discretion and $250,000 that is typically dispersed over a four-year period for projects and activities that will enhance his musicianship and career.
Previous recipients of the Gilmore Artist Award are Igor Levit (2018), Rafał Blechacz (2014), Kirill Gerstein (2010), Ingrid Fliter (2006), Piotr Anderszewski (2002), Leif Ove Andsnes (1998), Ralf Gothóni (1994), and David Owen Norris (1991). The 2024 Gilmore Artist Award is the first to be conferred under the tenure of Pierre van der Westhuizen.
Pierre van der Westhuizen said, “I first heard Kantorow in person in late 2019 performing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. His powerfully passionate and charming approach was thrilling in every respect; full of nuance and color. He had a sensitivity that was hair-raising, but massive power when called for. Kantorow remains one of the few pianists working today who leaves me quite breathless and feeling musically fulfilled in every way. In all the performances I’ve heard since, I found him inquisitive and musically curious, and he gave the impression that the musical discovery is, for him, a personal discovery and lifelong journey. While fast establishing himself in Europe, I’m excited for the spotlight that the Gilmore Award brings to this important artist here in the U.S. and beyond. He embodies every aspect of what we are looking for in a Gilmore Artist, and I am thrilled and honored to welcome him to this select and illustrious slate of pianists who continue to make enormous impact on the musical world.”
Alexandre Kantorow said, “I’m deeply grateful and honored to receive the Gilmore Artist Award. I thank Pierre and the members of the Artistic Advisory Committee for the time, effort and energy they spent in reaching a decision which will change my life. For an artist at the beginning of his musical journey, this support feels like such a gift (and that is enhanced by the very surprising way I learned the news !). Taking the next steps will be very exciting and challenging, as I set out to find the right creative musical choices that reflect the prestige and trust which was put in me by the Gilmore Nomination and Award Committees.”
Mr. Kantorow gives his first performance as Gilmore Artist in a special event at the Dalton Center Recital Hall in Kalamazoo, Michigan on September 17, 2023 at 2 p.m. ET. Hosted by GBH Music’s Brian McCreath, the event features Mr. Kantorow playing Brahms’ Sonata No. 1 in C Major, Op. 1, Liszt’s transcriptions of Schubert’s Der Müller und der Bach and Die Stadt (from Schwanengesang), and Brahms’ transcription of Bach’s Chaconne for left hand, followed by an onstage conversation with Mr. Kantorow, Dr. van der Westhuizen, and Elizabeth Ostrow, Chair of the Artistic Advisory Committee. The event will be livestreamed at www.thegilmore.org, as well as by The Gilmore’s streaming partners including Gramophone, International Piano, Steinway, and The Violin Channel, A radio broadcast of the event will also be produced and heard on Boston’s GBH Music at a later date.
Alexandre Kantorow, 26, has been praised by Gramophone Magazine as “the real deal, a fire-breathing virtuoso with a poetic charm and innate stylistic mastery.” Born in France and of French-British heritage, he studied with Pierre-Alain Volondat, Igor Lazko, Frank Braley, and Rena Shereshevskaya. At age 16, he made his debut at La Folle Journée festival in Nantes and since then has played with many of the world’s major orchestras. In 2019, at the age of 22, he made history as the first French pianist to win the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky Competition as well as the Grand Prix, awarded only three times before in the competition’s history. Kantorow is a laureate of the Safran Foundation and Banque Populaire, and in 2019 was named ‘Musical Revelation of the Year’ by the Professional Critics Association. In 2020, he won the Victoires de la Musique Classique in two categories: Recording of the Year and Instrumental Soloist of the Year. In 2021, he received the Trophée d’Année from Radio Classique. Mr. Kantorow records exclusively with BIS.
This season, Mr. Kantorow makes his New York recital debut at Carnegie Hall on October 22, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. ET playing Brahms’ Piano Sonata No. 1, Bach’s Chaconne from Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor arranged by Brahms for piano left-hand, Schubert works arranged by Liszt including Der Wanderer, Der Müller und der Bach, Frühlingsglaube, Die Stadt and Am Meer from Schwanengesang, and Schubert’s Fantasie in C major, Op. 15, D. 760, “Wanderer Fantasy.” Additionally this fall, he performs the same program on a recital tour of Japan with performances in Yokohama (Oct 6), Shizuoka (Oct 8), Osaka (Oct 11), and Tokyo (Oct 17); and plays recitals in Cologne (Nov 6), Paris (Nov 9), Lisbon (Nov 11), and Frankfurt (Nov 13). He also performs Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Berlin Philharmonic (Sep 28-30), Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 with the Orchestre de Paris in Paris (Nov 15) and Vienna (Nov 17), and Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Nov 22 & 23).
The Gilmore Artist Award Artistic Advisory Committee
The Gilmore Artist Award is given by the Irving S. Gilmore International Piano Festival, established in 1989. Candidates for the Gilmore Artist Award are nominated confidentially by a large and diverse international assemblage of music professionals. The finalists among the candidates are then each evaluated for their career potential and musicianship in numerous live concert performances over a two- to three-year period by Dr. van der Westhuizen and an anonymous Artistic Advisory Committee representing a variety of professions and viewpoints in the classical music world.
The selection committee for the 2024 Gilmore Artist Award included Wolfgang Fink, the former intendant at the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra; Gary Hanson, the former Executive Director of the Cleveland Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Elizabeth Ostrow, The Gilmore Artistic Advisory Committee Chair, former Vice President of Artistic Planning for the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and Artistic Administrator at the New York Philharmonic; Kathy Schuman, the Vice President of Artistic Programming and Executive Producer at the Caramoor Center for Music and Arts; Paul Schenly, the Artistic Director and Founder of PianoFest in the Hamptons and Artistic Director of the Cleveland International Piano Competition; and Howard Watkins, a member of the collaborative faculty at the Juilliard School and Assistant Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera.
“Working with these distinguished professionals was such an honor. The process of finding the next Gilmore Artist consisted of countless hours of listening, thousands of miles traveled, and dozens of hours of debating with some of the most brilliant minds in the music industry,” said Dr. van der Westhuizen. “It became very clear why our labor-intensive and time-consuming process has identified some of today’s most impactful and exciting pianists. Each member of this committee brings such wealth of knowledge and experience, and I truly felt like I learned a lot from them. I am so grateful to them for their contribution and their dedicated service”
The committee travels all over the world assessing the candidates’ concert performances over a sustained period of time, rather than judging their achievements during a concentrated period under tightly controlled conditions, as in a public competition.
The Gilmore Festival and Awards are the legacy of Irving S. Gilmore, a Michigan businessman and philanthropist based in Kalamazoo, whose special devotion to piano music and pianists inspired the creation of the biennial Gilmore International Piano Festival and the Gilmore Artist and Young Artist Awards. More information can be found at thegilmore.org.
Alexandre Kantorow has appeared at major concert halls including the Concertgebouw Amsterdam in their Master Pianists series, Konzerthaus Berlin, Queen Elizabeth Hall London, Philharmonie de Paris, Bozar in Brussels, and Tokyo Opera City. He frequently performs at festivals including La Roque d’Anthéron, Piano aux Jacobins, Verbier, Rheingau Festivals, and Klavierfest Ruhr. Additionally, chamber music is one his great pleasures and he regularly performs with artists such as Victor Julien-Laferrière, Renaud Capuçon, Daniel Lozakovich, and Matthias Goerne.
Orchestral highlights of Mr. Kantorow’s recent and upcoming seasons include concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, Philharmonia, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Boston, Pittsburgh, and Montreal Symphony orchestras among others, as well as tours with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Budapest Festival and Munich Philharmonic orchestras. Conductors with whom he is performing include Charles Dutoit, Ivan Fischer, Mikko Frank, Stanislav Kochanovsky, Kent Nagano, Antonio Pappano, Vasily Petrenko, Santtu-Matias Rouvali, Lahav Shani, Tugan Sokhiev, and Kazuki Yamada, among others. In the 2023-24 season he is Artist-in-Residence with the Gürzenich Orchestra, Cologne.
Mr. Kantorow’s recordings for BIS have received numerous accolades. In 2022, Mr. Kantorow received a double Diapason d’Or for his latest recordings of Brahms solo works and Saint-Saëns Concertos Nos. 1 and 2, with his Brahms recording also receiving the 2021 Trophée Radio Classique. His recordings of Saint-Saëns Concerto Nos. 3, 4 and 5 and his solo disc of Brahms, Bartók and Liszt also won the Diapason d’Or and the Choc de l’Année (Classica) in 2019 and 2020 respectively, and his à la Russe recital recording won numerous awards and distinctions in 2017, including Choc de l’Année (Classica), Diapason découverte (Diapason), Supersonic (Pizzicato), and CD des Doppelmonats.
Born in Clermont-Ferrand, Mr. Kantorow is from a family of musicians; his father is the violinist and conductor Jean-Jacques Kantorow and his mother is also a violinist. He began studying piano at the age of five at the conservatory of Pontoise.
Photo credit: Sasha Gusov