World-renowned classical musicians will perform in Montreal from June 13th to 23rd

Denis Brott and his wife Julie started the Montreal Chamber Music Festival twenty-nine years ago. Their office was the kitchen table. Since then, the festival has grown in numbers of performers, attendees and reputation. The world’s best classical musicians look forward to being invited to perform in this springtime Montreal festival.

Before sharing some of the festival highlights, we thought that our readers would enjoy an interview that festival Founder Denis gave with The Violin Channel. Now over to Denis…

What are you most looking forward to at this year’s festival?

For me, after 28 seasons, every year’s Festival is like attending the graduation of one of my children. So much love, effort, attention to detail, care, and consideration is put into conceptualizing, planning, and implementing the Festival that when it all comes together, almost miraculously, I feel pride and fulfillment that words connect aptly convey. Each edition is like a child growing from conception to maturity in 12 months!

After 28 successful seasons, what is the most important advice in regards to running chamber music festival?

Galvin Cello Quartet - Montreal Chamber Music Festival

The world-famous Galvin Cello Quartet will make their Canadian premiere performance on June 14 at Bourgie Hall

The best and only advice I can share is that founding and running a chamber music festival is a challenging job! There are no hours in the day, nights in the week, weeks in the month or months in the year. It is more a passion than a job. As such, you are always on call and must be in love with the process. The beauty is that all the effort, blood, sweat, and tears become distant, and memories are even forgotten when the magic of the concerts and their impact on performers and the public transition from concept to reality. The magic of the music conquers all.

What would you say to an aspiring Founder and Artistic Director of a Festival?

I would say celebrate what you know, know what you don’t know, and admit you don’t know what you don’t know! It takes untold commitment, belief, and tirelessness to bring ideas to life. It takes cherished friendships, camaraderie with colleagues, and relentless devotion to your convictions. Chamber music is a hard sell at the best of times. Your joy and enthusiasm must be infectious. It will be yours to convince your community and colleagues – those who doubt as much as those who believe – that music matters. If you are passionate about your beliefs, others will be too.

What is the most challenging part of putting on a festival? How do you deal with it?

David Krakauer

David Krakauer will perform in the Klezmer, Gershwin & All That Jazz! concert

It is, without a doubt, raising money. What I like least about holding a festival is that I always have to raise money to make it happen. Less than 20% of our revenue comes from ticket sales. Chamber music, in general, and a chamber music festival cannot pay for itself. It requires the kindness and support of your community and of your colleagues. Most frustrating is that I struggle daily to find time to practice as much as I want. Truth is I feel most myself when embracing my cello.

How do you choose where the concerts will take place?

Montreal is a particularly challenging environment for concert creation and programming despite its reputation as a” festival” city. The city is musically competitive in the extreme. There is a surfeit of quality chamber music concerts. In addition, few satisfactory venues combine all the required elements for the public and performers alike. For example, Montreal’s primary concert venue – the Place des Arts – has no venue suitable for the intimacy and specific acoustic properties chamber music requires to succeed. Our best is a beautiful hall in the Museum of Fine Arts, Bourgie Hall. It is unique and lovely and has the only Tiffany-stained glass windows in Canada. It was formerly a church. Its excellent acoustics make it the best choice for us in Montreal now. Though most of our concerts are at Bourgie Hall during the June festival, we do one concert each season using only the stage of the Place des Arts’ Maison Symphonique. A unique set-up. We also produce “Health and Wellness Concerts” in healthcare facilities, and private concerts in historic homes and other unusual venues, all wanting to democratize chamber music.

How do you select the artists? What are you looking for in terms of programming to best cater to the Montreal audience?

Barbican String Quartet

The London-based Barbican String Quartet will make several performances

As I see it, a Festival is not just a series of concerts. The Montreal Chamber Music Festival is rooted in firm beliefs and a mission. Our programming is always unique and pushes the boundaries of traditional chamber music events.  The varied choice of performers and repertoire at almost every concert, the combination of seasoned professionals and the finest rising stars creating an on-stage synergy otherwise not to be found anywhere in our city, annual commissions of new works or new transcriptions of beloved compositions, the inclusion of other disciplines like dance, narration, projections of artworks in conjunction with certain periods and styles of music, the celebration of great composers and performers milestone anniversaries…all this is the Festival.  And no opportunity is missed to push the boundaries and share the belief that chamber music is democracy in action (no conductor!) and that in chamber music the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

What strategies do you use to best engage your audiences?

We keep trying to figure that out! Engaging audiences is an ever-changing and challenging dynamic. Since COVID-19, we have become what I call a Festival REIMAGINED. That means we are now a two-headed monster producing both live events and videos. I am proud to say that we have created over 25 videos in the past 30 months alone. We plan to continue in this vein, video recording as many concerts as possible. And therein lies the rub! Video recording produces no revenue for us! Yet, we must be visible in this digital world. This is true not only of video recording but also of all aspects of our digital profile, whether Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and, of course, The Violin Channel!

Denis Brott is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival

Denis Brott

As good fortune would have it, the MCMF has audio-recorded every Festival since its inception in 1995. Our recordings of live concerts number in the many hundreds. It is impressive and unique. To further engage and assimilate our audiences, we are developing dedicated audio channels drawn from this archival library, dividing repertoire into individual Spotify and Apple Music channels under the headings: Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern and Jazz. We hope this will be intriguing and engaging for current and future audiences at home and on the WWW. This will add another dimension to our newly minted and ever-increasing video profile.

How do you push the festival forward and make each year different than the last?

As luck would have it, I always have ideas. The abundance of talent and creativity in our midst inspires me to re-examine my world and think differently. Music is a portal through which humanity can find meaning, kindness, empathy, truth, validation, communion, and understanding in their emotional journey.

I reflect on my life journey and my burning curiosity to explore ideas through the programming I dare to imagine. My colleagues are a constant source of ideas. I enjoy the camaraderie, and most importantly, they inspire me. Given the MCMF ‘s mission and my devotion to encouraging and providing performance opportunities to the finest aspiring talent, I am fortunate to make brilliant young colleagues as new friends every year. We all benefit through colleagues and the professional intermingling of talent of all ages. In this way, I will continue to grow the Festival and make it different yearly.

As musicians, we never really “know” anything. New perspectives, new talent, and unexplored opportunities await at every turn. At the root of it, that is what keeps my creativity flowing.

Tickets for the festival are available exclusively from the Place des Arts Box Office. 514-842-2112 or Enjoy!

Montreal Chamber Music Festival, June 13th – 23rd

Thursday June 13, 7:30pm, Salle Bourgie
Kerson Leong, violin; Illia Ovcharenko, piano; Barbican Quartet
Mix virtuosity, passion, and brilliance, and you have Obsession Violin. This program shows the many colours of the violin as performed by Canada’s internationally renowned Kerson Leong. In addition, Gold Medal competition winners pianist Illia Ovcharenko and the Barbican Quartet add to this mix of excellence and artistry.  This promises to be a winning program for the Festival opening concert.

Friday June 14, 12:00 noon, Salle Bourgie
Barbican Quartet will perform a free noon hour concert featuring works by Ravel and Haydn.
* General admission tickets are available only at Salle Bourgie 45 minutes before the performance.

Friday June 14, 7:30pm, Salle Bourgie
Galvin Cello Quartet (Canadian premiere) plus: Cameron Crozman, Chloé Dominguez, Leland Ko, Bruno Tobon, cello, and Aline Kutan, soprano. Who does not LOVE the cello? The astounding, award-winning Galvin Cello Quartet is presented in their Canadian premiere.  Repertoire includes Bach’s compelling Chaconne in a unique arrangement for four cellos. The Quartet will be joined by four Canadian cellists of distinction and soprano Aline Kutan in two works by Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos. The lush resonance of eight cellos is intoxicating and unforgettable. Add to that South American rhythms, and you will dance in your seat!

Saturday June 15, 12 noon, Salle Bourgie
Vatra Trio; Eva Lesage, violin, Bruno Tobon, cello and Chloé Dumoulin, piano. A free noon hour concert featuring the extraordinary talents of the Vatra Trio.
*General admission tickets are available only at Salle Bourgie 45 minutes before the performance.

Saturday June 15, 7:30pm, Salle Bourgie
Celebrate the grandeur of British music in this program featuring two majestic works by Edward Elgar and Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 1. The London-based Barbican Quartet, first prize winners of numerous International competitions, will perform with Honens Competition Gold Medal winner pianist Illia Ovcharenko and nine brilliant Canadians, all winners of the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank competition. This intimate musical collaboration of recent competition winners can only be heard at the Festival.
Barbican Quartet, Illia Ovcharenko , piano; Giora Schmidt, Shannon Lee, Gregory Lewis, Emma Meinrenken, violin; Lambert Chen, Annie Parent, viola; Cameron Crozman, Leland Ko, cello; and Eric Chappell, bass

LES PASSIONS DE CLARA, World premiere script by Geneviève Rochette
Sunday June 16, 3:30pm, Salle Bourgie
Barbican Quartet, Giora Schmidt, violin & viola; Denis Brott, Cameron Crozman, cello; Illia Ovcharenko, piano; Geneviève Rochette, author/actress; Jean Marchand, piano/actor.
What is life without passion? Clara Schumann’s was filled with a passion for music and for two important men in her life, her husband Robert Schumann, and the brilliant aspiring composer Johannes Brahms, a protégé of the Schumanns. This concert features a world premiere text by actress/writer Geneviève Rochette. Original letters between these three musical icons are the springboard for imagined scenarios of a personal and musical sort. Violinist Giora Schmidt and cellist Denis Brott will join the Barbican Quartet, actor/pianist Jean Marchand, and Geneviève Rochette in this exceptional assemblage of performers on the occasion of this world premiere presentation.

Thursday June 20, 12 noon, Salle Bourgie

A free noon hour concert featuring The Canada Council’s Musical Instrument Bank competition winners. Daniel Dastoor, Shannon Lee, Gregory Lewis, Emma Meinrenken, Julia Mirzoev, violin
Cameron Crozman, Leland Ko, cello; Lambert Chen, Sebastian Gonzalez Mora, viola.
**General admission tickets are available only at Salle Bourgie 45 minutes before the performance.

Thursday June 20, 7:30pm, Salle Bourgie

Everyone loves Gershwin! The epitome of American jazz, George Gershwin admired Maurice Ravel and wanted to study with the great French master. Ravel reportedly replied, ‘Why would you want to be a second-rate Ravel when you can be a first-rate Gershwin?’ This evening presents the Montreal premieres of An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue arranged for sextet by Matt Herskowitz.
Matt Herskowitz, piano; David Krakauer, clarinet; Festival Strings: Giora Schmidt, Daniel Dastoor, violin; Lambert Chen, Sebastian Gonzalez Mora, viola; Denis Brott, cello and Eric Chappell, double bass

Friday June 21, 12 noon, Salle Bourgie

A free noon hour concert featuring The Canada Council’s Musical Instrument Bank competition winners*. Daniel Dastoor*, Shannon Lee*, Gregory Lewis*, Emma Meinrenken*, Julia Mirzoev*, violin; Lambert Chen, Sebastian Gonzalez Mora, viola; Leland Ko*, cello. General admission tickets are available only at Salle Bourgie 45 minutes before the performance.

The Ehnes Quartet Friday June 21, 7:30pm, Salle Bourgie
Beethoven conjures up images of a unique genius who overcame debilitating deafness to write some of the greatest music ever.  In this first of two different programs, the extraordinary violinist James Ehnes and his Quartet explore the Op. 59, “Razumovsky” masterwork string quartets, each inspired by Russian folk melodies. These two concerts of different repertoires (June 21 and 22) offer an extraordinary listener experience and musical journey as presented by some of the finest chamber music artists in the world today.

Saturday June 22, 12 noon, Salle Bourgie

A free noon hour concert featuring The Canada Council’s Musical Instrument Bank competition winners*. Shannon Lee*, Gregory Lewis*, Emma Meinrenken*, Julia Mirzoev*, violin; Lambert Chen, viola; Leland Ko*, cello and Chloé Dumoulin, piano. General admission tickets are available only at Salle Bourgie 45 minutes before the performance.

Saturday June 22, 7:30pm, Salle Bourgie
Ehnes Quartet with Milena Pajaro-Van De Stadt, viola. Despite all the viola jokes, we all love the rich sound of the viola!  So did Beethoven! This concert brings together the great violist and former Dover Quartet member, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt with the brilliant Ehnes Quartet in a musical partnership unlike any other.

Sunday June 23, 3:30pm

Maison Symphonique, Place des Arts
If ever there was an occasion to have a musical party, this is it! Artistic Director Denis Brott has assembled an all-star cast led by James Ehnes, his quartet, trumpet virtuoso Jens Lindeman, harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour, and a panoply of first-chair players from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra.  All come together for a once-in-a-lifetime Bach party performing all six Brandenburg concerti in one sitting. This is truly a musical journey for performers and the public alike.  Join Denis for the Festival’s final concert & musical celebration.
The Festival Bach Ensemble: James Ehnes, Andrew Wan, Amy Schwartz Moretti, violin; Che-Yen Chen, Victor Fournelle-Blain, Milena Pajaro-Van de Stadt, viola; Edward Arron, Denis Brott, cello; Eric Chappell, double bass; Joanna G’Froerer, Christopher West, flute; Charles Hamann, Josée Marchand, Anna Petersen, oboe; Stéphane Lévesque, bassoon; Jens Lindemann, trumpet; Catherine Turner, Louis-Philippe Marsolais, french horn; Luc Beauséjour, harpsichord.

Tickets for the festival are available exclusively from the Place des Arts Box-Office. 514-842-2112 or