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Lubka Kolessa

Lubka Kolessa (Lviv, 1904 - Toronto, 1997) -

  • world-known artist - pianist, international virtuoso, one of the biggest classic music stars of the 1920-1930s;

  • student of three of Liszt's students: Thern, Sauer, and d'Albert;

  • fluent in and a connoisseur of literature and poetry of seven languages.

She was immensely charismatic - on and off stage, and very beautiful. Her life - a mystery suspense drama. She played with the most outstanding conductors of her time and on the world's most prestigious stages - Berlin, Zurich, New York, Rio-de-Janejro, Warsaw, Sofiya, Kyiv, Lviv...

Lubka Kolessa was born on May 19, 1904, into a family of scholars in Lviv.

Her uncle, Filaret Kolessa, the ethnographer, was one of the prominent figures in the early history of ethnomusicology.

Her father, Oleksandr Kolessa also had been a noted scholar and a famous public figure: rector of the Ukrainian Free University, and shortly after Lubka Kolessa's birth, an elected member of the Austro-Hungarian Parliament in Vienna.

Lubka Kolessa graduated from the Vienna State Academy where she had studied with Louis Thern. She was awarded the Bösendorfer Prize upone graduation from the Academy.

After further studies at the graduate school, with the Liszt pupil Emil Sauer, she was awarded the State Prize, at that time the highest award in Austria. Additional studies followed with another Liszt student, Eugen d'Albert, who markedly influenced her concept of tone and style.

At the age of 15 she was touring Europe and South America, frequently appeared as soloist with major orchestras and performed repeatedly under the most eminent contemporary conductors, including

  • Karl Böhm,
  • Bruno Walter,
  • Wilhelm Furtwängler,
  • Felix Weingartner,
  • Willem Mengelberg,
  • Sir Henry Wood,
  • Erich Kleiber,
  • Herbert von Karajan.

During the 1938-1939 concert season her schedule consisted of 178 concerts.

In the early 1940s Mme. Kolessa arrived in Canada and gave many public recitals and appeared with orchestras, including

  • the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
  • the New York Philharmonic.

On the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation she performed weekly in several series of recitals, each series dedicated to the presentation of major piano works of an individual composer - Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin.

Mme. Kolessa taught at:

  • the Toronto Conservatory of Music
  • the Conservatoire de Musique et d'Art Dramatique de la Province de Quebec,
  • the Vincent d'Indy School and the
  • Faculty of Music at McGill University.

During each academic year she made weekly trips from Toronto to Montreal, until her retirement in the 70s.

Among her students are many prominent musicians:

  • conductor Mario Bernardi, internationally renowned as one of Canada's leading conductors
  • composer-pianists Clermont Pépin and John Hawkins (University of Toronto),
  • pianists Howard Brown (professor emeritus, Bishop's University),
  • Patricia Grant Lewis, Richard Gresko (deceased),
  • Millicent Kavanaugh,
  • Gordon Kushner (former vice-principal and acting principal, RCMT),
  • John McKay (Gustavus Adolphus College, Minn.),
  • Louis-Phillipe Pelletier (chair, piano area, McGill University),
  • Eugene Plawutsky (chair, performance department, McGill University),
  • Pierrette Froment (Ottawa),
  • Luba Zuk (piano faculty, McGill University)
  • Dr. Ireneus Zuk.