Oskar Morawetz

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Oskar Morawetz
Born January 17, 1917
Světlá nad Sázavou, Bohemia
Died June 13, 2007 (age 90)
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Genres contemporary classical
Occupations composer, professor of music
Instruments Piano
Years active 1944–1995
Labels Columbia, RCA Victor, EMI, Sony Classical, Centerdiscs, RCI/CBC
Website www.oskarmorawetz.com

Oskar Morawetz, CM OOnt (January 17, 1917 – June 13, 2007) was a Canadian composer.

Morawetz was born in Světlá nad Sázavou, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic). He studied piano and theory in Prague and, following the Nazi takeover of his country in 1938, studied in Vienna and Paris, always staying one step ahead of the invading Nazis. At an early age he developed the ability to sight-read orchestral scores and at the age of 19 he was recommended by George Szell for the assistant conductor's post with the Prague Opera. In 1940 he left Europe for Canada and since that time he established himself as one of Canada's leading and most frequently performed composers.

Music[edit]

Morawetz' orchestral compositions have been programmed in North and South America, Europe, Australia and Asia by nearly 120 orchestras and by such outstanding conductors as Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Rafael Kubelík, Kurt Masur, Gunther Herbig, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Charles Mackerras, William Steinberg and many prominent Canadian conductors. Many internationally acclaimed soloists have performed and recorded his compositions including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, pianists Glenn Gould, Rudolf Firkušný, Antonin Kubalek and Anton Kuerti, Metropolitan Opera singers Jon Vickers, Maureen Forrester, Victor Braun, Louis Quilico, Judith Forst and Ben Heppner, and many principal wind players of the best orchestras in the U.S.A. and Canada who have commissioned and premièred his works.

His style absorbs, in his own distinctly personal way, several trends of the 20th century. However he was never attached to serial music or the latest avant-garde styles such as chance or electronic music. Musicologists and critics usually stress the melodic and rhythmic vitality of his music, sincerity and depth of expression, his sense for building up powerful, dramatic climaxes, and his unusually colourful and imaginative orchestration. Stylistically, he is a self-avowed traditionalist: "Ever since I was a child, music has meant for me something terribly emotional, and I still believe there has to be some kind of melodic line."

Among his most highly regarded works are his Piano Concerto and Sinfonietta for Winds and Percussion both premièred by Mehta. His Memorial to Martin Luther King was broadcast by radio stations in 24 countries in 1979 in honour of King's 50th birthday, and by nearly 250 stations in the USA in 1987 in a special performance by Kurt Masur and the Cleveland Orchestra. This composition as well as his From the Diary of Anne Frank, which conductor Karel Ančerl described after its Carnegie Hall première as "one of the most moving compositions he had conducted during the last two decades", have both been performed on four continents.

Awards and honours[edit]

Morawetz has received numerous awards for his compositions. His String Quartet No. 1 and Sonata Tragica were both given a CAPAC award. His Concerto No.1 for Piano and Orchestra was the award winning composition in the nation-wide competition sponsored by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (1962). His Sinfonietta for Winds and Percussion was chosen as the winning composition of Critics' Award at the International Competition for Contemporary Music in Cava dei Tirreni, Italy (1966). In 1971, From the Diary of Anne Frank received a special award from the J.I. Segal Fund for Jewish Culture in Canada in Montreal for "the most important contribution to Jewish culture and music in Canada." This composition won a Juno Award for "Best Classical Composition" in 2001. His Concerto for Harp and Orchestra also won a Juno award in 1989.

On three occasions, Morawetz was awarded a Canada Council Senior Arts Fellowship (1960, 1967, 1974) for his contribution to Canadian music. In 1987, Morawetz was the first composer in Canada to receive the Order of Ontario honouring citizens "who have demonstrated excellence and achievement of the highest degree and distinction", and in 1989 he received the Order of Canada[1] for his "outstanding achievements and service". SOCAN also honoured Morawetz in 1994 with the Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award, which recognizes a composer with "an unsurpassed number of performances of a vast variety of works executed by world renowned conductors and performers". In 1999, SOCAN once again honoured Morawetz with its highest honour, the Wm. Harold Moon Award for bringing international recognition to Canada through his work. Morawetz was also awarded an honorary diploma from the Royal Conservatory of Music (1998), and the Golden Jubilee Medal (2002).

Recordings[edit]

A great number of his works have been recorded on disc by Columbia, RCA Victor, EMI, Sony Classical, the Canadian Music Centre (Centrediscs), and the CBC. In 1984 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation issued an anthology of Morawetz's music on seven records. In 2002 the Canadian Music Centre, produced Canadian Composers Portraits, a documentary and music CD set on the pioneering composers to Canadian music.

Professor[edit]

Morawetz began teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1946, and in 1952 was appointed to the University of Toronto where he was professor of composition until his retirement in 1982. Among his notable pupils are Tomas Dusatko, Walter Kemp, Muriel Kilby, Larysa Kuzmenko, Edward Laufer, Bruce Mather, Ben McPeek, and Srul Irving Glick.

References[edit]

Major Compositions[edit]

Orchestral

  • Carnival Overture (1945)
  • Symphony No. 1 (1953)
  • Divertimento for Strings (1954)
  • Overture to a Fairy Tale (1956)
  • Symphony No. 2 (1959)
  • Sinfonietta for Strings (1963)
  • Passacaglia on a Bach Chorale (1964)
  • Sinfonietta for Winds and Percussion (1965)
  • Symphonic Intermezzo (1970)
  • Railway Station (1979)
  • Symphonic Fantasy for Brass and Percussion (1981)

Concertos (Orchestral with soloist)

  • Grenadier (1950)
  • Elegy (1954)
  • I Love the Jocund Dance (1954)
  • Land of Dreams (1959)
  • Piano Concerto No. 1 (1962)
  • Concerto for Brass Quintet and Chamber Orchestra (1967)
  • Memorial to Martin Luther King (1968)
  • From the Diary of Anne Frank (1970)
  • A Child's Garden of Verse (1972)
  • Fantasy for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (1974)
  • Concerto for Harp and Chamber Orchestra (1975)
  • Psalm 22 (1983)
  • Concerto for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra (1989)
  • Slavonic Dance in E- (1993)
  • Humoresque in G-flat (1993)
  • Concerto for Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra' (1994)
  • Fantasia for Violin and Chamber Orchestra (1994)

Choral Music

  • Keep Us Free (1950)
  • Two Contrasting Moods (1966)
  • Crucifixion (1968)
  • Who Has Allowed Us To Suffer? (1970)
  • Five Biblical Songs (1981)
  • When I Am Laid In Earth (1983)
  • Prayer for Freedom (1993)

Vocal Music

  • Elegy (1946)
  • Piping Down the Valleys Wild (1946)
  • Chimney Sweeper (1946)
  • Grenadier (1946)
  • Mad Song (1946)
  • The Fly (1946)
  • To The Ottawa River (1948)
  • Land of Dreams (1948)
  • I Love the Jocund Dance (1948)
  • When We Two Parted (1949)
  • Cradle Song (1950)
  • My True Love Hath My Heart (1954)
  • Mother I Cannot Mind My Wheel (1954)
  • Sonnets from the Portuguese (1955)
  • Four songs on poems by Bliss Carman (1966)
  • Father William (1973, 1974, 1981)
  • Psalm 22 (1979)
  • Little Lamb Who Made Thee? (1981)
  • Souvenirs from Childhood (1984)
  • The Weaver (1985)

Keyboard Music

  • Scherzo (1947)
  • Fantasy in D minor (1948)
  • Scherzino (1953)
  • Fantasy, Elegy and Toccata (1956)
  • Ten Preludes for Piano (1961)
  • Suite for Piano (1968)
  • Young Whale's Lament (1982)
  • Four Contrasting Moods (1986)
  • Fantasy for Accordion (1988)
  • Five Poetic Sketches

Chamber Music

  • Duo for Violin and Piano (1947)
  • String Quartet No. 2 in A- (1955)
  • Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano (1956)
  • Trio for Flute, Oboe and Harpsichord (1960)
  • Fantasy No. 1 for Cello and Piano (1970)
  • Fantasy No. 2 for Cello and Piano' (1970)
  • Sonata for Brass Quintet (1976)
  • Three fantasies for Oboe and Piano (1976)
  • Five Fantasies for String Quartet (Quartet No. 4) (1978)
  • Sonata for Flute and Piano (1978)
  • Sonata for Horn and Piano (1979)
  • Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1980)
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1980)
  • Sonata for Bassoon and Piano (1981)
  • Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano (1982)
  • Four Duets for Flute and Bassoon (1982)
  • Sonata for Tuba and Piano (1983)
  • Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Piano (1985)
  • Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (1985)
  • Sonata for Harp and Viola (1985)
  • A Child's Cry from Izieu (violin and piano) (1987)
  • Tribute to W.A.Mozart (Quartet No. 5) (1990)
  • Improvisations on Four Inventions by J.S.Bach (Quartet No. 6) (1992)

Additional reading[edit]

  • CBC Times October 1949, March 1954, March 1956, December 1959, July 1969 issues
  • Canadian Composer March 1967, October 1970, April 1974, March 1982, December 1987 issues
  • Musicanada December 1969
  • Time magazine June 8, 1970
  • The New Yorker April 22, 1972
  • Fugue Magazine January 1978
  • Classical Music Magazine April/May 1992
  • SOCAN: Words and Music December 1999

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Governor General of Canada (17 November 1988). "Oskar Morawetz, C.M., O.Ont., D.Mus.". gg.ca. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 

External links[edit]