conductor, pianist, educator
“Confident and fluid on the podium, this Canadian is obviously a natural conductor who has been trapped too long in a pianist’s body….After working calmly and unpretentiously with the soloists, Bertsch made a perfect tone poem of the Suite from Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier…One could not have asked for more.” Montreal, The Gazette
“…Bertsch’s performance of this monumental work (Brahms B-flat concerto) was a brilliant display of strength, brilliance, and musical craftsmanship…” Kingsport (Tennessee) Times-News
Hailed for his passion and natural musicianship by critics, audiences, and musicians alike, Rolf Bertsch is one of Canada’s leading conductors. Appointed Assistant Conductor of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal by Charles Dutoit in January 2000 and named Conductor in Residence for the 2002-2005 seasons, he has had an impressive reputation as conductor, pianist, communicator, teacher and adjudicator. His career has spanned a wide spectrum of musical experience and styles and has taken him to Europe, Asia, and throughout North and South America.
Laureate of a numerous competitions including the Canadian Music Competitions, Rolf Bertsch served for many years as pianist of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, as well as solo pianist for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. Recitalist, soloist, and chamber musician, highlights of his career as pianist have included a number of solo appearances with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under the direction of Charles Dutoit, most notably in Carnegie Hall in 1997, as well as performances at the chamber music festivals in Saratoga and Ottawa.
Rolf Bertsch’s career took an important turn when in September 1997 he was named Resident Conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he held from 1998-2001. During this highly successful tenure he also served as Music Director of the Calgary Civic Symphony Orchestra and Altius Brass, Calgary’s leading brass ensemble, and worked regularly with Calgary’s chamber music ensemble Rosa Selvetica and at the University of Calgary. Music Director of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens from 1989-1991, he was also the founding conductor of Ensemble Début in Montreal.
In June 2000, Mr. Bertsch was invited to conduct the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa in its “Great Composers” series in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Pinchas Zukerman, Amanda Forsyth and Andrew Burashko as soloists. This collaboration was repeated with the OSM in September 2001, this time with Louis Lortie as pianist, and again in 2004 at the NAC with Janina Fialkowska at the piano. Rolf Bertsch has worked with such renowned artists as Jon Kimura Parker, Marc Hervieux, Alessandra Marc, Daniel Binelli, André Laplante, Janina Fialkowska, Stewart Goodyear, Nicolaj Znaider, Marc-André Hamelin, Richard Raymond, Chantal Juillet, James Ehnes, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Tracy Dahl, Aline Kutan, Renaud Capuçon, Benjamin Schmid, Neil Cockburn, Diana Cohen, and Los Romeros.
Mr. Bertsch began his musical studies on the violin and went on to study piano, cello, composition, jazz, and conducting with such teachers as Leon Fleisher, Dorothy Morton, Armas Maiste, James Dick, Helena Costa, Uri Mayer, Raffi Armenian, and Gustav Meier. In his years in Montreal and Calgary he worked extensively with Charles Dutoit and Hans Graf as well as with many visiting artists. He holds diplomas from a number of prestigious institutions including McGill University, the Mozarteum (Salzburg), the Conservatoire de musique du Québec (Montréal), the Folkwang Hochschule (Essen, Germany), and Phillips Academy (Andover, Massachusetts).
Rolf Bertsch has conducted most of the orchestras in Canada including those of Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Québec, Kitchener-Waterloo, Windsor and Nova Scotia. He has often appeared as conductor for the “Salute to Vienna” New Year’s Day concerts held throughout North America. He made his Canadian Broadcasting Corporation conducting debut with a national broadcast feature performance with the winds of the OSM.
While he excels in a wide range of repertoire, Rolf Bertsch has had particular success with the music of Strauss, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff as well as with the French repertoire through his long collaboration with Charles Dutoit and the OSM. An avid believer in building bridges, he developed and conducted a series of sold-out performances with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal based on music from the movies. He has received accolades for his programming and performances for young audiences. Rolf Bertsch served as artistic director for “Music at Mount Royal”, a concert series he founded featuring OSM musicians performing in chamber ensembles as well as collaborations with other artists and performing groups. In the summer of 2005, he was part of an international faculty at the Canton International Summer Music Academy in Guangzhou, China.
In 2007-2008, he worked at the Canada Council for the Arts as Program Officer for the Professional Orchestra and Opera/Music Theatre programs, overseeing the federal granting process for those communities. He also served on the Board of Directors of Orchestras Canada from 2004-2007, a period which saw this important arts organization answering to the need to reshape and redefine itself in order to better serve its stakeholders.
After an extensive performing career spanning three decades and over 3800 performances, Rolf Bertsch has for the last several years devoted much of his energies to teaching and mentoring. He has a large private studio and runs the internationally recognized Academy Piano program at the Mount Royal University Conservatory. He conducted the chamber orchestra at Ambrose University College from 2011-2013. Rolf Bertsch is receiving increasing recognition as an outstanding teacher and has been invited to teach, perform, and adjudicate in Xiamen, Beijing, and Shenzhen, China and at MusicFestPerugia in Italy in 2017 and 2018.
In May of 2014, he was named Artistic Director of the Instrumental Society of Calgary, an organization dedicated to presenting chamber music performances by the best of Calgary area musicians. He also serves as Chair of the Alberta Music Education Foundation.
Even with his demanding teaching responsibilities, he continues to be an active performer. He is in his 11th season as Artistic Director and Conductor of the Calgary Civic Symphony. He appears frequently as soloist, in recital and chamber music, is in his 11th season as pianist of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and works as a free-lance conductor, pianist, clinician, producer and arts consultant.
In his free time, he enjoys golf, skiing, and fine food and wine.