‘Her playing is absorbing and sensitive, full of insightful phrasing, reflective subtlety, and, when suggested, joie de vivre…As she savours the transcendent unfolding of material, Mercer draws the listener deeply into Bach’s singular galaxy.’ Gramophone, August 2014
‘To draw an analogy, hearing the dark, rich, full tone of the instrument is as sweet to ear as tasting chocolate for the first time. Delicious.’ London Scene, 2014
Described as a “pure chamber musician” (Globe and Mail) creating “moments of pure magic” (Toronto Star), Canadian cellist RACHEL MERCER has demonstrated her love for sharing music through performance since she was three years old. Deeply rooted in chamber music, she brings to each performance a spirit of collaboration and a sense of the magic of the moment, whether playing in a small ensemble or with a full 80-piece orchestra. Winner of the 2009 Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank Competition, Rachel was awarded the use of the 1696 Bonjour Stradivarius cello from 2009-2012. As the grand prize winner of the 2001 Vriendenkrans Competition in Amsterdam, Rachel made her European debut in the Concertgebouw and has appeared as a soloist across Canada, in Europe, the United States, Balkans and Israel. A member of the award-winning Aviv String Quartet from 2002-2010, Rachel toured regularly on five continents. Currently based in Toronto, Rachel is cellist of Ensemble Made In Canada, the Mercer-Park Duo, the Seiler Trio, and is Artistic Director of the “5 at the First” Chamber Music Series in Hamilton. Rachel has given masterclasses at schools, conservatories and universities across North America, South Africa and in Israel and can be heard on the Naxos, Dalia Classics and EnT-T record labels. Her second solo cd of the complete Bach Suites was released on Pipistrelle in March 2014.
As a member of piano quartet Ensemble Made in Canada, winner of CBC Galaxie Rising Stars Award, and named among “80 Women to Watch” in the 80th anniversary edition of Chatelaine Magazine, Rachel tours regularly across Canada and the United States. As well as presenting the great standard repertoire for piano quartet and mixed programs (solo/duo/trio/quartet), EMIC believes strongly in outreach and commissioning Canadian music. They have performed for schools, seniors’ residences, universities, the Canadian Music Centre, CONTACT (for young entrepeneurs), and commissioned and will record a very successful first piano quartet from Canadian JUNO-winner John Burge, and two works from young American composer John B Hedges. Their Kickstarter-funded debut CD of Mozart and Brahms quartets was released in 2013. Since 2006, Rachel also appears in recital with pianist Angela Park as the Mercer-Park Duo. The duo performs across Canada, again presenting the duo repertoire alongside new Canadian works. Their debut disc was released in July 2011 and the duo received Ontario Arts Council and FACTOR grants to record their next album of music all written by Canadian composers of their generation, to be released on Naxos Canadian Classics in 2014. Rachel and Angela were joined in 2011 by violinst Mayumi Seiler (director of Toronto’s chamber music series “Via Salzburg”) to form the Seiler Trio.
Rachel’s 2013-14 season includes a tour with the Mercer-Park Duo in Alberta funded by the Canada and Ontario Arts Councils, as well as recitals in Ontario, Seiler Trio concerts in Hamilton, Sault Ste Marie and Waterloo, a tour of China with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, a 12-day 10-performance tour of Ontario with Ensemble Made In Canada, and principal cello appearances with Group of 27 and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. New works by Alice Ho and Christine Donkin for solo cello and the Canadian Guitar Quartet will be premiered at the 2014 Ottawa Chamberfest. Rachel will also perform at the Festival of the Sound (Parry Sound) and teach as a Distinguished Guest Artist at the Rosamunde Academy in Winnipeg.
The 2014-15 season will include the Brahms Double Concerto with the Canadian Sinfonietta, a solo recital with new commission by Andrew Downing in Toronto, two Prairie Debut tours with the Lee-Mercer-Park Piano Trio, a tour of Ontario with Ensemble Made In Canada, Mercer-Park Duo recitals in Thunder Bay, Toronto, Gatineau, and regular appearances with the Art of Time Ensemble including a tour with Madeleine Peyroux. As Artistic Director of the “5 at the First” Chamber Music Series in Hamilton, Rachel will co-present Cello Extravaganza III, an all-cello concert ending with an 100-piece cello choir, as well as 5 regular series concerts including sextets by Dvorak, clarinet quintets by Mozart and Brahms and the Mercer-Oh Trio.
As a member of the Aviv String Quartet from 2002-2010, Rachel played in halls such as the Auditorium du Louvre, Zurich Tonhalle, Wigmore Hall, Herbst Theater in San Francisco, the Library of Congress in Washington DC, Baxter Hall in Cape Town, St Lawrence Centre in Toronto, and at festivals such as Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence, Lockenhaus, Davos, Colmar, Oslo and Ottawa. The quartet released cds on Naxos and Dalia Classics and celebrated its 10th anniversary with a complete Shostakovich cycle at the 2007 Verbier Festival. Collaborations included performances with Jorg Widmann, Boris Berman, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, James Tocco, Boris Petrushansky, Elisso Virssaladze and Anton Dressler. The quartet also gave masterclasses, coaching and outreach performances in the United States, Israel, South Africa and Canada, including at the University of Toronto.
Born in Edmonton, Rachel began cello studies at the age of three with Diana Nuttall. She spent formative years with Kristl Armstrong at the Vancouver Academy of Music, where she made her solo debut with the Vancouver Academy Chamber Orchestra at the age of 12. After moving to Ontario, Rachel attended the Royal Conservatory of Music and received the Gold Medal for her Associate Diploma, studying with Susan Gagnon and David Hetherington. She received a BM from the University of Toronto with Shauna Rolston, an MM with honours from the New England Conservatory with Laurence Lesser, and a solo diploma from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Dmitri Ferschtman. Rachel attended Orford, Banff, Holland Music Sessions, Ravinia, Prussia Cove, Scotiafest, Proquartet, the Juilliard Quartet Seminar and the Verbier Academy, for masterclasses with Boris Pergamenschikow, Frans Helmerson, Lynn Harrell, Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Gregor Horsch, Valentin Berlinsky, Valentin Erben, Henry Meyer and Walter Levin.