Viktoria Reiswich-Dapp wins Vanier prize

Only two of 166 winners of a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship are studying music, and only one of those is specializing in performance: the University of Alberta's Viktoria Reiswich-Dapp. Vikt

19 May 2009

Only two of 166 winners of a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship are studying music, and only one of those is specializing in performance: the University of Alberta's Viktoria Reiswich-Dapp. Viktoria Reiswich-DappViktoria, a pianist and a candidate for the Doctor of Music degree in the Department of Music, was selected as one of the first recipients of Canada's most prestigious federal award for graduate students, an award whose goal is "to attract and retain the world's top-tier doctoral students, both nationally and internationally, and make Canada a world leader in higher education research." Valued at $50,000 and renewable for up to three years, the award recognizes her outstanding record as an artist, researcher, and leader and places her in the company of leading scholars and scientists from around the world who have chosen Canadian universities for their advanced study.

Viktoria came to the University of Alberta from one of Germany's finest musical institutions, the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, to study piano with Professor Jacques Després. Born in Uzbekistan, she began her training and won numerous music competitions there. Moving to Germany, a world centre of classical music performance and training, she continued to win performance competitions at the national level. This recognition helped establish her leadership as a young artist and began her activity as a cultural ambassador, which has included performances in Turkey and Japan, as well as admission to prestigious performance venues and masterclasses throughout Germany and in Israel. Her extraordinary artistry has been apparent in all of her performances since her arrival.

But Reiswich-Dapp is not only exceptional as a performer. She won the Vanier Scholarship on the basis of a remarkably sophisticated project for the study and innovative performance of a uniquely enigmatic work, Erik Satie's Sports et divertissements. Taking her cue from the highly unconventional nature of the work itself-not just a musical score but a set of hand-coloured prints originally published with a facsimile of Satie's handwritten and idiosyncratic musical manuscript, which also contained a wide variety of hand-written verbal comments and enigmatic interpretive instructions-she is approaching it not as a marginal and simplistic curiosity within the piano repertoire, but as a remarkably complex example of "intermedial" art, a concept that recognizes and analyzes the crucial and distinct contribution of different media to the meaning of human activities and products. The project, however, will be more than an analysis; it will culminate in a performance that will challenge audiences (both in a live and a subsequent recorded and edited format) to experience the tensions inherent in such a work through a genuinely intermedial performance, employing music, staging, and video and computer technology, without sacrificing the collection's delicacy and humour. Further, it will explore the cultural significance of an intermedial work that engages social, political, and national references in a multicultural environment.

The Department of Music is uniquely situated to help Viktoria achieve this ambitious and innovative goal. In addition to Després, an internationally recognized artist, the department is ideally suited to facilitating such a necessarily collaborative project by its intense and supportive environment for graduate performance study, an academic program widely recognized for its interdisciplinary orientation, an Electroacoustic Research Studio (EARS) funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and finally, its integration in the Faculty of Arts with its explicit support for interdisciplinary initiatives.

Viktoria Reiswich-Dapp's Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship represents the highest level of national recognition of her extraordinary accomplishment and promise. But for those who have worked with her in the Department of Music, it is only confirmation of qualities that have been clear since her arrival.