On April 19th 2024 the Halifax based music label Leaf Music released the Debut Solo Album by Canadian Pianist David Potvin. Called Catharsis, this album features music written by three wonderful Canadian composers Jean Coulthard, Cris Derksen and Keiko Devaux.

Winnipeg audiences might know pianist David Potvin from his performance back in late November 2022 as part of the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg concert season. His performance here in Winnipeg was part of his 13 concert tour across Canada that he did, as part of his winning of the 45th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition.

In addition to winning the prestigious 45th Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, Potvin has performed with violinist Martin Beaver, and has been part of other projects where he has championed Canadian music. He was part of a recording project where he recorded music of Montreal based composer Edward Enman, and has performed in a recital that featured the music of Jaques Hetu.

The music on Catharsis consists of:


This is all music that Potvin performed while on his 13 concert tour across Canada. As Potvin says, “Playing this music all around the country gave me new perspectives on it, and it was great to see audiences reaction to it.”

The recording took place in December of 2023. The title of the disc Catharsis is a word that Potvin thought of while he was in the recording process. As he explains, “I was looking for a concise title to encapsulate the way that this music accesses deep emotional feelings…and also the way the music ebbs and flows…how it has powerful climaxes, but also moments of reflection. And I thought the type of music reflects a cathartic experience where you have these deep held emotions, and then once they are finally expressed you have a moment of a shifted perspective and hopefully some serenity afterwards.”

The CD starts out with Cris Derksen’s piece Growing Forgiveness. This was the contest piece for the E-Gre Competition that all piano competitors had to perform. The composition stimulus for Derksen came out of her experiences during the pandemic. As Potvin says of the piece “We all had challenges during the pandemic, and it was her reflection on that…it was her call to think about how we can find ways to find common ground in a  time where there was lots of strife and lots differing opinions about what was going on during the those times.”

The centerpiece of Catharsis is Jean Coulthard’s 13 Preludes for the piano. Each prelude lasts just one to two minutes, and in each prelude she succinctly develops her musical ideas. All of the preludes are very accessible to the average listener, as Potvin points out, “Jean Coulthard used an accessible language when she wrote music, and she was often criticized for that during her career….but I think because she stuck to her guns…she kept writing in a way that resonated with her, that’s what made her music so popular.” The preludes run the gamut of emotions and styles, and each one is dedicated to a close personal friend of her’s. “They not only give a great survey of her compositional techniques but they also give a great biographical survey of the people who were important to her during her life,’ says Potvin.

The other Coulthard work on Catharsis is her piece The Contented House. This is stunning music that was originally written for orchestra, and it comes from a larger work called Canada Mosaic. Potvin took it upon himself to arrange The Contented House for the piano. “It’s gorgeous…I would love to arrange the whole suite…that piece in particular is beautiful in a way that just sticks in your head. It hasn’t been performed that often. There is only one recording of it. I just wanted a way to further engage with that music,” states Potvin.

The recording is rounded out by Montreal based composer Keiko Devaux’s piece Murmuration. Inspired by flocks of starlings that are called murmurations, this piece makes use of tape. The tape is at times acting as an accompanying drone to the piano writing, and at times the piano has conversations with the sounds of a murmuration of starlings that Devaux has recorded herself. The overall effect is both lovely and dramatic, especially at the end where there is a large climax. as Potvin says of the climax, “It ends with a bang which is really compelling in my opinion….and she said [Devaux} that she wanted to create the effect and the feeling in the listener of the franticness and menacing nature of the murmuration when it becomes threatened…and the birds start to move really rapidly, and really quickly to ward off any threat to them.”

Catharsis is a very listenable and enjoyable recording. Potivin’s playing is always controlled and beautiful. There are no hard edges to the playing or ugly sounds and Potvin successfully carries the musical intent of all three composers through to fruition. The musical selections are a great representation of what is best in Canadian music, and the recording engineers at Leaf Music have done a marvellous job of capturing the sound of the piano. This is a recording that is well worth a listen!