Dr. Jacques C. Després began learning to play piano at the age of 3. He started lessons a few months later at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Québec. In the fall of that year, the legendary Canadian conductor Wilfrid Pelletier, after hearing him play, noticed an extraordinary talent in the precocious pianist. After winning the Montréal Symphony Orchestra competition in 1978, and the Prix d’Europe in 1981 from the Académie de musique du Québec, Després has led a varied artistic life. He has appeared as soloist with orchestras, recitalist, chamber musician, collaborative artist, lecturer, educator, and musical director of the Summer Serenades at the University of Stony Brook’s Staller Center in New York.
Worldwide noteworthy accolades for Després’ musical approach include a rare combination of virtuosity and artistic integrity. Després’ repertoire is broad and eclectic. Most notable are his two world premiere recordings of Joseph Martin Kraus of the complete piano works, and The New Goldberg Variations with cellist Tanya Prochazka. The Kraus performances on Naxos received world critical acclaim, and for the same label, he followed up with a two-compact disc recording of the complete chamber music works by Kraus, a recording he edited.
Highlights of the past few seasons include performances in Hong Kong, Beijing, Manila, Wuhan, Seattle, Montréal, New York, Chicago, Reno, and Sacramento. Després has presented master classes at leading institutions in North America as well as the Central Conservatory in Beijing, lectured at Juilliard on the landmark Ekier edition of Chopin's Ballades, and served twice as the Daniel Ericourt Artist-in-Residence at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro.
During his 2013-14 sabbatical leave, Després will complete the preparation and performances of two major musical projects: the complete sonatas for piano and violin by Beethoven with Andrew Wan and the solo piano works by Debussy.
Després was awarded a Premier Prix à l’unanimité au Conservatoire de Musique du Québec, earned a Master’s degree from the Juilliard School, holds a DMA from the University at Stony Brook, and received the Artist Diploma with Distinction at Indiana University. His teachers were Christiane Sénart, Gyorgy Sebok, Adele Marcus and Gilbert Kalish. Després has been a member of the Music Department at the University of Alberta since 2000.
Complete piano solo works by Debussy