Instantly recognized by her “arrestingly beautiful tone colour” (The Strad), cellist Denise Djokic captivates audiences with her natural musical instinct and remarkable combination of strength and sensitivity. Acclaim for her powerful interpretations, bold command of her instrument and insightful playing has earned her world-wide recognition and appearances in some of the most venerable halls Denise burst onto the international music scene when millions of television viewers watched her performance of Bach at the 2002 Grammy Awards following the lauded release of her self-titled debut recording on SONY Classical.
Since then, Denise has accrued numerous distinctions and accolades: she has been named one of the top “25 Canadians Who Are Changing Our World” by Maclean’s Magazine, one of “Canada’s Most Powerful Women” by Elle Magazine, and had her life and career chronicled by a special BRAVO! TV documentary entitled “Seven Days, Seven Nights”. A natural leader and advocate for classical music, Denise is equally at home on the podium as a keynote speaker, having presented at forums such as IdeaCity in Toronto and the Women In Leadership Conference at Queen’s University. Denise believes strongly in passing along her knowledge of music and her instrument. She serves on the Faculty of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada each summer, has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa, and frequently gives masterclasses.
Highlights of the coming 2018-19 include a performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Regina Symphony Orchestra and Gordon Gerrard conducting, as well as with the Prince Edward Island Symphony, performing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with Mark Shapiro. Denise will return to the Sweetwater Music Festival in Leith, Ontario and will also perform and teach at Scotia Festival of Music. She will continue her summer festival activities at the Bowdoin International Music Festival and will also return to the Peninsula Music Festival where she will perform the Martinu Cello Concerto No. 1 with Victor Yampolsky. Renowned for her performances of Bach’s Cello Suites, Denise is currently working on a video project featuring the complete suites in collaboration with filmmaker Andrew Coll.
Denise recently made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Edmonton Symphony and conductor William Eddins, which featured a performance of John Estacio’s Triple Concerto with pianist Angela Cheng and violinist Juliette Kang. Other recent highlights include her acclaimed Lincoln Center performance of Arturo Marquez’s “Espejos en la Arena” with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas and Alondra de la Parra conducting, appearances with the Academic Orchestra of Zurich in Quebec City, Strauss’s Don Quixote with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Orchestre Métropolitain, a multi-disciplinary presentation with Seattle’s Spectrum Dance in the world premiere of Donald Byrd’s Love, set to Britten’s Cello Suites and a special performance of solo Bach with Ballet Victoria.
As a recitalist, Denise performs frequently with acclaimed pianist David Jalbert. Recent performances have taken them to Washington D.C., San Francisco, Mexico City, Vancouver, Chicago, Tuscon, and New York’s Bargemusic. Denise and David also tour with Piano Plus, an organization which brings performances to Canadian communities in which the opportunities to hear live concerts are limited. In addition, her love of chamber music has brought her to the festivals across North America, including the world premiere of Christos Hatzis’s “In the Fire of Conflict”, with percussionist Ryan Scott and dancer Peggy Baker at the Toronto Summer Music Festival. She appears frequently with New York’s Jupiter Chamber Players and also tours with her chamber music partner since childhood, her violinist brother Marc.
Denise’s award-winning discography features the a disc of Chopin and Rachmaninoff sonatas with her long-time recital partner, pianist David Jalbert (ATMA), the complete Britten Solo Suites for Cello also for ATMA which has received consistent accolades: “young Canadian cellist Denise Djokic does them proud here with breathtaking technique and a wide dynamic sweep” (Toronto Star) and “Djokic has a hugely impressive technique, and her projection of singing melodic lines without exaggerated vibrato can be very touching. (BBC Music Magazine), her highly acclaimed CD, entitled Denise Djokic featuring works by Barber, Martinu and Britten received the 2002 East Coast Music Award and Folklore (Allegro/
A Musical Family
Having grown up in a large musical family, Denise first began to learn the cello with her uncle and aunt, cellists Pierre Djokic and Michelle Djokic. Her parents, Lynn and Philippe, and brother Marc, are all musicians. Her early cello teachers in Halifax were Olive Shaw and Shimon Walt, before moving to Cleveland where she continued her studies with Richard Aaron and in Boston with Laurence Lesser and Paul Katz. Denise gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Denise currently lives in Urbana, Illinois with her husband, Nelson and their children.
Concert review: ESO up to the challenge in excellent Eddins Effect concert
Posted: February, 2015
Saturday night’s concert by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra was something of a special occasion for its music director Bill Eddins.
It was mostly devoted to the music he enjoys so much, that very American blend of the classical and jazz, in the tradition of Gershwin and Bernstein. The concert was titled The Eddins Effect, and its timing was spot on, as it was announced on Friday that his contract with the ESO has been extended through the 2016/2017 season.
The three jazz-related symphonic works he programmed were all by composers who will almost certainly have been unfamiliar to the audience. All three have the reputation as eccentrics, mavericks of the classical music world.
Friedrich Guida’s Concerto for Cello and String Orchestra (which includes percussion and guitars) was written in 1980 for cellist Heinrich Schiff. It is a kind of mad-cap patchwork of pastiche, from rock and jazz through echoes of early music in the style of the Spaniard Rodrigo, to Souza-like marches mixed with the cancan.
It’s crazy, but undeniably fun, with some whimsical lyrical beauty in a second slow movement that recalls the idiom of Stephen Foster. It doesn’t exactly challenge audiences, but it does challenge the soloist, especially in the extended, sometimes improvised, cadenza.
The young Canadian cellist Denise Djokic made a very strong case for the piece, her virtuosos playing binding together the weird elements. I thought she was more idiomatically effective than Schiff’s own recording, especially in the first movement, where she rocked with the best.
A Night of Shining Strings
By Hannah Spray
Any time cellist Denise Djokic wants to come back to Saskatoon, she is more than welcome.
“Amazing” and “unbelievable” were among the words I overheard whispered during her performance Saturday with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra at TCU Place.
Of course, some of the credit must go to Tchaikovsky for his brilliant Variations on a Rococo Theme, a virtuosic piece that calls on the solo cellist to do things we ordinary symphony-goers didn’t realize were possible.
After the cadenzas in the fifth variation, when Djokic’s fingers danced over the trills and runs, I wanted to stand up and applaud right there and then.
Then there were the notes in the high register, each one more amazing than the last, plus the chords and the soulful melodies.
The entire performance was one of beauty.
Winnipeg Free Press
Russian master expertly handled
The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra kicked off its first-ever Tchaikovsky Festival Friday night, with the latest concert in its Masterworks series featuring three classics by the 19th-century Russian wonder.
The program featured acclaimed Canadian cellist Denise Djokic performing Tchaikovsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 that unfolds as a wonderfully crafted set of theme and seven variations. But in Djokic’s hands, it became so much more, as she displayed a breathtaking artistry that held the audience of 1,448 spellbound. The Halifax-born musician immediately launched into the theme that provided the first taste of her well-burnished tone. Her lyrical phrasing and colourful palette of sound — including razor-thin notes coaxed out of her instrument’s extreme upper range — was matched only by her virtuosic technique, immediately evident with her unflinching delivery of triplet passages during the first variation. In spite of a few perilous moments, her soulful cadenzas held the crowd rapt until her final, dazzling final variation with its quicksilver 32nd-note runs. Quite deservedly, this dynamo earned two curtain calls with a standing ovation for her enthralling performance.
Symphony Under the Sky: Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorák
Organization: Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Bob Bernhardt
When: Friday, August 30, 2013
EDMONTON – The Edmonton Symphony took a real risk on Friday with the opening concert in Symphony Under the Sky, the orchestra’s mini festival.
The highlight of the concert, though, was Dvorák’s heartfelt and heart-winning cello concerto. The young Canadian cellist Denise Djokic sensibly warmed up — the wind was both strong and a little chill — with what she had originally intended as an encore, Tchaikovsky’s little Nocturne for cello and orchestra.
This was, though, a whimsical little prelude to the main fare. Djokic’s approach to the Dvorák was both highly romantic, and, in its way, commendably youthful.
For this was very much a Romantic concerto performance in the grand style, the soloist in a passionate dialogue with the orchestra, sometimes leading, sometimes arguing.
The effect was perhaps highlighted by the over-amplification of the cello (understandable in the open air). But it was also a solo performance of heightened, if never exaggerated, emotions. So often the concerto is played autumnally, old age looking back. But from her opening lines, the impassioned cello breaking into the mellow fruitfulness of the orchestra, Djokic emphasized the vigour that is also in the work. The lyricism, especially in the slow movement, was the yearning of loves desired, loves being lost, rather than of old age reminiscing. Indeed, the opening of the finale was jaunty, almost insolent.
Dvorák reworked his original ideas for this movement, following the death of his sister-in-law, whom he himself had proposed to many years earlier. The lyricism, when it does return toward the end, can understandably sound valedictory. But Djokic imbued it with a sense of hope, of looking forward rather than looking back, as the clouds turned pink and then gold in the gathering evening.
It was a pleasure to have Denise here last weekend. Our audience was mesmerized by her, and she was so gracious to come out after the concert and meet our patrons.
Tanya Derksen, Executive Director
February 9, 2019
We had a wonderful concert with Denise and everybody was delighted…such an expressive and emotive performer! It was a pleasure to host her and her family.
“It is always so great to have Denise back! She plays beautifully and is always a total pro.”
Eric Mathis, Operations Manager
Symphony Nova Scotia
October 26, 2017
“It was such a pleasure to work with Denise. Our audience was thrilled to hear her play the Dvorak concerto. Our conductor and musicians really enjoyed working with Denise. I hope we can have her back again sometime soon.” – Andrea Haughton, General Manager, Kingston Symphony Associatation
Just wanted to let you know that Denise’s radio broadcast is on CBC RADIO TWO on Saturday, October 27 at 10:00 NY time. Here is the link to the program’s website. They still have last week’s show up on the website but will be putting up Denise’s today, likely late in the afternoon.