Bernadene Blaha. Pianist, b Brantford, Ont, 29 May 1958; B MUS (Juilliard) 1980, M MUS (Juilliard) 1981.
Blaha was a scholarship student of Boris Berlin. She later studied with Ania Dorfmann, and Marek Jablonski. She studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music 1963-76, at the Juilliard School of Music from age 17, and later at the Banff Centre for the Arts 1983-5.
Blaha's "diamond-edged virtuosity" (Santa Barbara News) has been displayed in performances throughout North America, Europe, Mexico, Bermuda, and Jamaica. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1982. Since then, she has performed as a soloist with orchestras such as the Toronto Symphony, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, the Hamilton Philharmonic, and the Houston and Phoenix symphony orchestras. In 1988 she performed Chopin's Concerto No. 1 with the Zapadocesky Symphony Orchestra at the 23rd International Chopin Festival in Czechoslovakia (in 1995, she gave the opening orchestra concert and solo recital at the 29th edition of the same festival). These concerts were followed by a solo recital at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., and a solo debut in London, England.
She toured British Columbia and Alberta (1984) and northern Ontario (1985) with the Banff Centre for the Arts touring program, was soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic for its 1987 Alberta tour, and toured with Shauna Rolston in British Columbia and the USA in 1987 and across Canada in 1991. In 1992, Blaha performed the Grieg piano concerto with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Bramwell Tovey.
In 1994 Blaha's touring schedule was interrupted by an accident in which shards of glass pierced an artery in her hand, but missed nerves and tendons. After therapy, she was able to resume her touring schedule at the end of 1994 with stops in New York and northern California. Early in 1995, she was featured with the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra.
In 1999 Blaha was invited to perform for a televised gala concert with Piano Six, after which she remained an active touring member of the project. Early in the 21st century, Blaha became a member of Cross Country Classics, an expanded version of the Piano Six project, and she tours British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia with cellist Elizabeth Dolin.
As a chamber musician, Blaha has appeared with chamber music groups for festivals in Canada (the Banff Festival of the Arts, Festival of the Sound, the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival); the USA (the Tucson Chamber Music Festival, Olympic Music Festival, La Jolla Summerfest, The Round Top International Festival [Texas], the Newport Festival); and Mexico (Festival de San Miguel de Allende). She has performed with the Orford String Quartet, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, and the Endellion String Quartet, as well as with soloists Rolston, Robert Aitken, Martin Chalifour, Rivka Golani, Peter Bowman, Jorja Fleezanis, Lynn Harrell, Steven Isserlis, Karen Tuttle, and Blaha's husband, Kevin Fitz-Gerald.
Blaha has been a faculty pianist at the Banff Centre for the Arts since the late 1980s. In 1993 she became a senior lecturer in keyboard studies at the Thornton School of Music, at the University of Southern California.
In 1997, Blaha made her first solo recording, a CD featuring the piano music of Chopin (RTR 116/861/5). In 1998 she recorded the sonatas of Strauss, Debussy, and Barber with Rolston (CBC Records, MVCD1118) and, in 1999, the complete works of Robert Schumann with violist Rivka Golani (CBC Records). She also made several CDs for Arizona Friends of Chamber Music. In 2003 she recorded the complete works of Mendelssohn for cello and piano with Elizabeth Dolin (FL 1 3166 Analekta) and plans were in place for a recording of Beethoven.
Awards and Competitions
Blaha was the winner of the 1981 Montreal Symphony Orchestra Concours. She was also a prizewinner at the 1983 Young Keyboard Artists International Piano Competition in Grand Rapids, and, with Dolin, won first place in the duo class at the 1986 International Chamber Music Competition in Florence, Italy. Blaha also placed in the Masterplayers International Competition at Lugano, Switzerland. She won first prize at the 11th International Piano Competition in New York City, which resulted in recital appearances at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.