The Montreal Estonian community was out in force to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Declaration of Estonian Independence at a concert featuring the Estonian-born pianist Armas Maiste. The Montreal Estonian Society hosted the free concert at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, Concordia University, on Saturday, February 23.
The concert was open to all, and there were approximately 300 people in the audience. The afternoon concert was a rare treat to all who attended. Mr. Maiste appeared on stage dressed in a traditional black tuxedo and, perhaps in keeping with the commemorative theme, sporting a blue shirt.
Mr. Maiste began the concert with one of his own compositions, Overture, a jazz improvisation based on Estonian folk melodies. Mr. Maiste, who taught jazz studies at McGill University, brought the rich harmonies and vibrant rhythms of jazz to these traditional melodies.
The concert continued with selections from both classical and jazz repertoires, demonstrating Armas Maiste’s versatility and command of the piano in its many stylistic subtleties. The classical selections he performed included Johannes Brahms’s Rhapsody No. 1, Pour le Piano, a Suite in three movements by Claude Debussy, Impromptu No. 2, Op. 142 and Impromptu No. 2, Op. 90 by Franz Schubert and Polonaise in A flat, Op. 53 by Frederic Chopin. Mr. Maiste performed with strength, agility and clarity; each selection demonstrated his mastery with regard to the stylistic demands and the musical interpretation of each work. I was particularly fond of the Debussy, with its ethereal qualities as Mr. Maiste’s hands floated over the keyboard bringing out each of the different moods and motifs in this composition.
The jazz portion of the concert showed the audience the soul of Armas Maiste. He performed Carolina Shoutby James P. Johnson, St. Louis Blues by W. C. Handy and Canadiana Suite by Oscar Peterson. Jazz has many different styles and nuances, which Mr. Maiste was adept at rendering for each of the selections. He plays the piano with a very calm demeanor, but his hands draw out all of the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic elements of each piece. The energy of the music was infectious and the audience got into the “groove”.
Mr. Maiste delighted the audience with his talent, humour and graciousness. He took a moment to kiss the Estonian flag during his final bow, which reminded those present of the cause for celebration and the purpose for the gathering. A reception followed where many enjoyed the opportunity to continue the celebration amongst friends.
Armas Maiste featured at Montreal independence day assembly