Denis Brott: A Story of Recovery and Resilience

Image courtesy of Denis Brott

Denis Brott. Photo by Victor Brott

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Cellist Denis Brott was one of the first severe cases of Covid admitted to an ICU in Canada. His extraordinary story of survival and courage in returning to the cello following weeks on life support is one of hope and possibility. He joins festival director Barry Shiffman to share his moving story. 


Denis Brott

Cellist Denis Brott is recognized as one of Canada’s finest musicians. Gifted with passion, dedication and enthusiasm, his performances have taken him to four continents as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician. He is the Founder and Artistic Director of the renowned Montreal Chamber Music Festival. A highly respected pedagogue, he is Professor of Cello and Chamber Music at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal (1989), where he is also Conductor of the Orchestre à cordes. 

Brott was a cellist in the Orford String Quartet (1980-1988) during which time it recorded 25 CDs including the complete string quartets of Beethoven, which won the Grand Prix du Disque du Canada Award and two Juno Awards for Best Chamber Ensemble Classical Recording. During that period, the CBC named the Orford Quartet among the top ten Canadian classical ensembles of the 20th century. He has also been an invited guest with some of the finest quartets in the world, including the Guarneri, Emerson, Tokyo, Fine Arts, St. Lawrence and Dover String Quartets. 

His accomplishments have been recognized with distinguished awards including the Great Montrealer and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his cultural contribution to Canada. In 2014, Canada’s Governor General bestowed upon him the Order of Canada for his outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. He was invested into the Order of Montreal for his contribution to the international reputation of Montreal and his exemplary commitment to the community. 

Brott studied with several world-renowned teachers and became a protégé of Gregor Piatigorsky. He went on to win a succession of international competitions, including the Washington D.C. Merriweather Post Competition, Montreal Symphony Orchestra Competition, Los Angeles Young Musicians Foundation Debut Award and the Munich International Cello Competition. Denis has served on the juries of numerous international competitions, including the Munich Cello and Quartet Competitions, the Banff and Evian International String Quartet Competitions. 

Denis Brott plays a magnificent 1706 David Tecchler cello on loan for his lifetime use by the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank, the creation of which he played a founding role.

Barry Shiffman

Barry Shiffman enjoys a diverse career as a musician, educator, and administrator. He was co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) and currently serves as both the Associate Dean and Director of Chamber Music at Glenn Gould School, and Director of the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. 

During his 17 years with the SLSQ he appeared in over 2,000 concerts in venues around the globe and recorded several critically acclaimed discs under an exclusive contract with EMI Classics. While with SLSQ, Shiffman served as an artist in-residence at Stanford University from 1998 to 2006 and as visiting artist at the University of Toronto from 1995 to 2006. 

Shiffman has also served in numerous roles at Banff Centre, including Director of Music Programs (2006-2010), Artistic Director of Summer Classical Music Programs (2010-2016), and Director of the Banff International String Quartet Competition since 2006. During his tenure at Banff Centre, he introduced new programming in classical music performance, composition, popular music, and jazz and oversaw the dramatic growth of the Banff International String Quartet Competition, including the successful launch of the Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival in 2017.

In 2018, Shiffman was appointed Artistic Director of Rockport Music in Massachusetts, overseeing all classical programming for the organization including a five-week summer chamber music festival at the venerable Shalin Liu Performance Center. From 2009-2017, he was Executive Artistic Director of Music in the Morning Concert Society in Vancouver. A sought-after juror, he has served on the violin jury of the Tchaikovsky and Montreal Violin Competitions, and the String Quartet Competitions of London Wigmore Hall, Lyon, and Geneva.

Shiffman received his formal studies at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, University of Toronto, Utrecht Conservatory, Hartt School of Music, Juilliard School, and Yale University. Summer studies included Banff Centre, Tanglewood, and Aspen. He is also the recipient of the Longy School’s Nadia Boulanger Prize for Excellence in the Art of Teaching, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Calgary.