French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie achieved international recognition by his mid-twenties. His strong, yet sensitively crafted playing has served him well in a repertory of considerable breadth, with a concentration on composers from the late Classical period to the early 20th century. Through a particularly fruitful association with his record company, he has been able to preserve on disc many of his most impressive interpretations and to enjoy a wide audience for his artistry.
After studying with Yvonne Hubert, Lortie made his first professional public appearance as soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. He was then 13 years old and, wisely, elected not to pursue a concert career immediately. After winning first prize in Canada's two premiere competitions, the Canadian National Music Competition and the CBC National Competition when he was 16, he made what he considers his official debut with the Toronto Symphony in 1978 and joined the orchestra in a subsequent tour of Japan and the People's Republic of China. While in his early twenties, Lortie moved to Baltimore in order to work with Leon Fleisher and to expand his knowledge of the piano literature.
In 1984, Lortie was first prizewinner of the Busoni International Competition and a prizewinner as well at the Leeds Piano Competition. Along the way, he had traveled to Europe, living for a time in Paris, Florence, and Vienna. Following his exposure to European culture and the recognition resulting from his successes in competition, Lortie began to undertake a more extensive number of concert engagements and made his first recording in 1986.
Within the first few years of an active career, Lortie performed throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. His engagement calendar included dates with such orchestras as the Cleveland Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester, and the Orchestre National de France. With the latter ensemble he performed on tour. Recital tours in Italy became yearly occurrences and, under the auspices of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lortie was well-received throughout an extensive tour of Australia.
Over the course of a number of summers, Lortie performed with the Montréal Symphony in program series devoted to a single composer. Complete cycles of the 32 Beethoven sonatas have been given in London, Toronto, Berlin, and Milan. Acknowledging one of his London appearances, the Daily Telegraph described Lortie as "one of perhaps half a dozen pianists who is worth dropping everything to go and hear."
Few pianists have enjoyed such a long-term and mutually satisfying relationship with a recording company as that existing between Lortie and Chandos. Lortie has been afforded the opportunity to preserve his interpretations of composers extending from Mozart to Ligeti. Among them is his collection of the complete piano works of Ravel, a set that has received several awards. His recordings of Chopin's Preludes and Etudes are also of particular interest.
Having found exposure to a variety of performing traditions of great value, Lortie has taught at the piano institute at Imola, Italy, when his schedule has allowed. That school's philosophy is congenial to him and he has been pleased to work with advanced students similarly interested in a concert career.
Lortie was honored by being made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and he was made a Knight of the National Order of Quebec.