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L to R: Sholto Kynoch, Christian Elliott, Jonathan Stone. The Phoenix Piano Trio. Photo: Robert Piwko.

Talking Albums: Christian Elliott

By John McDonald on May 2, 2020

Christian Elliott began his musical studies at the age of nine with his father, Ottawa jazz and classical guitarist Garry Elliott. Having always loved the cello’s sound, he had the opportunity, at 13, to learn the instrument with Pawel Szymczyk-Marjanovic. He later studied at McGill University, with Matt Haimovitz, and at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music.

He became the Principal Cellist of the Irish Chamber Orchestra in 2016, with whom he has appeared as soloist and director. Christian has played as guest principal with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, the RTE Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the RSNO, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, and the Halle Orchestra.

As a composer, Christian premiered his own string sextet composition, commissioned by British cellist Steven Isserlis, at London’s Wigmore Hall in July 2012.

Christian also is a member of The Phoenix Piano Trio, along with violinist Jonathan Stone and pianist Sholto Kynoch. They recently released The Leipzig Circle, piano trios by Robert Schumann, Niels Gade, and Felix Mendelssohn. Gramophone Magazine said that the “performances are thoroughly engaging” and that it was “in many ways a rewarding disc.”

During confinement, at his current home in Edinburgh, Christian has been posting videos on his Facebook page of his adaptations of Bach’s Goldberg Variations for multiple cello parts. These have now been compiled on his YouTube channel.

Christian Elliott:

It has been a very strange time for musicians, deprived as we are of public performance, and making music with other people—the means by which we sustain ourselves as human beings. I have been seeking refuge, like so many others, in the music of Bach, by transcribing and multi-track recording the Goldberg Variations on my cello. And while that has been taking time, there are two particular albums I have been gravitating towards.

The first is Fauré’s Barcarolles and Nocturnes for solo piano recorded by Stephane Lémelin, whose performances of these ravishing pieces are exquisite.

I’ve also been listening to Joseph Szigeti and Egon Petri playing Brahms’ D minor Sonata for violin and piano from a live performance in 1937. It’s from the album Szigeti Plays. The playing is so beautiful, I am at a loss for words. Although I don’t have the album (it’s quite difficult to obtain), I listen to it on YouTube.

Many thanks for asking about me. I wish the Apt613 readers good health and happiness!


About Stéphane Lemelin

Pianist Stéphane Lemelin (born in Mont-Joli QC) has earned recognition and acclaim for his performances with chamber music ensembles, as a soloist with orchestras, and as a recitalist. He has more than 25 recordings, which include works by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, Debussy, Poulenc and Roussel, as well as many lesser-known French composers.

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About Joseph Szigeti and Egon Petri

Joseph Szigeti was an eminent Hungarian-born American violinist. He made his debut in Berlin at the age of 13. From the 1920s until 1960, Szigeti performed regularly around the world and recorded extensively. He was a strong advocate of new 20th-century composers.

Egon Petri decided to concentrate on piano despite his father, Henri, being a professional violinist. By the 1930s, he was firmly established as one of the foremost pianists of the day. Grove’s Dictionary says that Petri was “acclaimed everywhere as a superb artist whose works is profound, muscled, and subtle…he brings clear thinking to each composition and the direct action of a pair of wonderful hands which never make an unnecessary movement.”


More from Christian Elliott

Official website

JS Bach ‘Goldberg’ Variations, adapted for multiple cello parts – Video 1/5 – Aria to Variation 7

YouTube channel

Phoenix Piano Trio

Phoenix Piano Trio play Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66, MWV Q 33 “Grand”: II. Andante espressivo


Want to Explore Bach’s Goldberg Variations?

The Goldberg Variations, by Johann Sebastian Bach, consists of an aria and a set of 30 variations. Canadians are likely most familiar with Glenn Gould’s recordings. Bach: The Goldberg Variations was the Canadian pianist’s 1955 debut album. He recorded it again in 1981, a year before his death. The versions vary greatly: The 1955 recording is 38 minutes long, while his reconsidered, slower 1981 version is 51 minutes.

Much has been written about The Goldberg Variations. In 2012, NPR’s Deceptive Cadence held a Goldberg Week with interesting written and audio features such as “Bach’s Enduring Enigma,” “Why I Hate The Goldberg Variations” and “The Official Goldberg Variations Puzzler.” In 2018, The Classic Review presented a 3-part feature which discusses “The Best” of Goldberg Variations—the best recordings, the best harpsichord versions, and the best piano versions.