MUSICIAN OF THE MONTH: BURT WATHEN
June is here and so is our newest Musician of the Month: We’re thrilled to introduce Burt Wathen!
Born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Wathen received his early musical training in Saint John, New Brunswick. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Music of the University of Toronto, with a degree in Music Performance. Following a first engagement as Principal Viola with the Hamilton Philharmonic, he moved to Rome to study with Mo. Dino Asciola and consequently joined the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. He later returned to Canada as one of the founding members of Symphony Nova Scotia. After the departure of Boris Brott, Wathen served as interm artistic advisor and was responsible for bringing Georg Tintner to Halifax.
In 1988 he returned once again to Europe, serving as principal viola in several orchestas before joining the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna as principal viola where he remained until 2014 when he assumed his duties at LAMP.
As principal viola he has collaborated with some of the world’s most important conductors, including Riccardo Muti, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Roberto Abbado, Georges Pretre, Sir Neville Mariner, James Conlon, Charles Dutoit, Mstislav Rostropovic, Christian Thielmann, Vladimir Yurofsky, Alberto Zedda, among others. For 10 years he colaborated with Daniele Gatti as his principal viola at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna and has covered the same role with Michele Mariotti for the last five years. As viola soloist, one of the highlights was the Italian premiere of Benjamin Brittain’s Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra (Willem Blokbergen violin and the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna).
Burt has also enjoyed an extensive involvement in chamber music, performing on three continents with among others, Raina Kabawanska (her farewell tour and recording), Vladimir Yurofsky (Concerti Break,Bologna) and Shlomo Minz (Teatro C.di Bologna).
Wathen has taught and served on the boards of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra and has served as a juror for international viola competitions in Genova, Trieste and Bologna.
1.What is your idea of perfect happiness? Great music being beautifully performed. Having the time and the peace and quiet to properly listen to the late Beethoven String Quintets. Chopping wood, being outdoors away from people and communing with nature, long peaceful walks with just Jane and very close friends (who know how to walk in silence) in the rugged Canadian wilderness.
2. Do you have a favourite musician? Martha Argerich is the greatest living performer of our time and I first worked with her in Rome in 1979, she performed Beethoven 1 and I was completely blown away. When I knew that LAMP was about to become a reality, Ms. Argerich was the first person I approached to come and teach and perform in Lunenburg. She said that she would think about it but that Walter Delahunt was the person I needed. What great advice, and 4 years later we had the great honour of hosting Martha at LAMP to teach and perform with Walter. Not only is she an extraordinary artist but also an extraordinary person. I find her powerful but dolce, captivating and alluring , demanding and giving, She is a complex force to be reckoned with.
3. What is something people would be surprised to know about you? I love to split fire-wood.
4. What else besides music would you do, all things being possible? As Artistic Director of LAMP my duties are administrative and I almost never perform. I have no time to practise, and to perform with our LAMP masters, many of the most important performers of our time, requires a technical readiness that is impossible without constant maintenance. I am therefore very content to run the Lunenburg Academy Of Music Performance, a cultural entity that in less than three years of operation (we complete our third year in June) has become a major Canadian institution and our recital hall one of the most desirable concert venues, for performer and audience east of Montreal.
5. What/where is your favourite place to eat? Italy. We talk of Italian cuisine, but it doesn’t exist. Each town, province and region has its own exquisite dishes and flavourful opuses and variations on a theme. It is impossible to single out one great restaurant or region, hence my one word answer – Italy.
6. Which composer (dead or alive) would you most like to share a meal with and why? My favourite composer is Beethoven, but an evening with him would, I think, would be very stressful and daunting. My second favourite composer is Rossini who was famous for his salon evenings and sumptuous dinner parties, i.e. much more approachable and a relaxing, enjoyable and stimulating evening would be practically guaranteed.
7. What are you looking forward to this summer? The Rossini Academia and Festival in Pesaro.
8. Do you want to share a viola joke with us? How would you define a viola audition? Scratch and win.