Definitions of personal style don’t get any clearer with life experience. This becomes obvious during my interview with Canadian composer and pianist Glenn Buhr. It also becomes clear however, that personal style can be evaded more deliberately with age. With impressive compositional chops at his disposal, Buhr can articulate his shifting approaches to composition, performance, and improvisation without breaking into a sweat.
Our wide-ranging conversation touched on the idea of musical perception, what makes music memorable, cultural success, and the use of song in concert music. Buhr is concurrently immersed in writing a book about the inherently social nature of music and in composing a piano concerto for which he hopes to harness the energy of one of Shakespeare’s more lasting cultural works, by basing the concerto’s first movement on the dramatic energy of King Lear.
GLORIA LIPSKI: Tell me about the piece you are working on now.
GLENN BUHR: The piano concerto I’m writing right now is for Jan Lisiecki—he’s this young superstar they say is the next Glenn Gould. One of Lisiecki’s mentors, Ralph Elsaesser, a former colleague of mine at Wilfrid Laurier, came to one of my concerts and said, “I just met this young pianist and he needs to do some more contemporary music.” So Ralph made the arrangements for a private commission. 

Image: A sketch for Buhr’s next piece. Image by: Glenn Buhr.