In 2020, Canada’s Governor General named pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honors. She was cited “for her celebrated career as a classical and contemporary pianist, and for championing Canadian music”. In 2021 Christina Petrowska Quilico was also named Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
The award for career achievement is Canada’s “highest honour an individual can achieve in the Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences.”
It was the latest recognition for a lifetime devoted to her art. She received the Friends of Canadian Music Award from the Canadian Music Centre (CMC) and Canadian League of Composers and was selected as one of the CMC’s Ambassadors of Canadian music. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation named her one of “20 Can’t-Miss Classical Pianists” and, another year, one of “Canada’s 25 greatest classical pianists”. In 2021, she was added to CBC Radio’s “In Concert Hall of Fame”, celebrating the greatest Canadian classical musicians of all time, past and present. Her CD Vintage Americana (Navona Records) was chosen by the CBC as one of the top recordings of 2021.
Born in Ottawa, Canada, Christina Petrowska Quilico was only 10 in her orchestral debut, playing the Haydn D major concerto with Toronto’s Conservatory Orchestra. She moved to New York when she was 13 to study on scholarship at the Juilliard School and the High School of Performing Arts. At 14, sharing top prize with Murray Perahia in a concerto competition, she played Mozart’s K.488 in New York. The Times hailed her as a “promethean talent” and she continued to give solo and chamber recitals at many of the city’s other venerated recital halls including Carnegie and Merkin halls, garnering superlatives from the city’s critics, who deemed her “an extraordinary talent with phenomenal ability…dazzling virtuosity”, playing Olivier Messiaen “to perfection”. Allen Hughes of the Times exalted her “beautiful clarity” in Liszt’s dazzling La Campanella, an encore to a program of forward-looking 20the century repertoire, noting, “Petrowska is a pianist and musician of refreshingly unconventional taste and ability…a welcome treat.” She appeared in Alice Tully Hall playing Debussy and music by living composers – including her first husband Michel-Georges Brégent (1948-93). In the Times again, Hughes noted that in those years, she “has proved several times over that she is a pianist and musician of more than ordinary attainments.” She took part in the 2018 festival celebrating Frederic Rzewski’s 80the birthday at Brooklyn’s Spectrum and continues to include American music in her CDs and solo recitals.
She has performed 45 concertos with orchestras in the U.S., Greece, and Taipei, and with most of Canada’s leading orchestras. Concerts have taken her across the U.S. and Canada, as well as to Taiwan, the Middle East, France, England, Germany, Greece, and Ukraine.
In recorded output, few artists can match Petrowska Quilico, particularly in the music of her time. Among her 50 plus CDs are eight piano concertos on five albums, and solo and chamber works by contemporary and international composers. She also recorded four CDs and toured extensively with her second husband, the legendary Metropolitan Opera baritone Louis Quilico. Four of her CDs have earned JUNO Awards nominations, three of them for concerto CDs, and one for Glass Houses Revisited by Ann Southam, which is Centrediscs’ all-time best seller and was named one of “30 best Canadian classical recordings ever” by CBC Music.
Her traditional classical CDs include solo albums of Chopin, Liszt, and the tangos of Ernesto Nazareth, Mozart piano concertos; and the complete Mozart violin and piano sonatas, recorded with violinist Jacques Israelievitch. American Record Guide wrote, “This is how music should be played. There is a feeling of freedom and ebullience in these performances that I attribute mainly to the wonderful Quilico, and she is one of the most satisfying pianists I have heard in this music.”
A visual artist as well, she has painted several the covers that adorn her more recent albums.
Christina Petrowska Quilico is a Full Professor of Piano and Musicology at York University, Toronto. In 2021 she was one of the esteemed winners of York’s annual research awards and was selected as a 2020 York Research Leader. A generous benefactor, she created the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards at the Ontario Arts Foundation, which is held every two years with the Canadian Opera Company.