Austrian Music in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Austrian Music in Canada

The pre-1914 Austrian-Hungarian Empire created a socio-political mix which has made it difficult to estimate the number (probably close to 50,000 in 1960) of true Austrians in Canada.

The pre-1914 Austrian-Hungarian Empire created a socio-political mix which has made it difficult to estimate the number (probably close to 50,000 in 1960) of true Austrians in Canada. For the purpose of this article an attempt has been made to regard Austria in its modern definition, as the German-speaking republic lying within the borders established in 1919. In considering the contribution to Canadian culture, it is difficult to distinguish between the Austrian and the German. Much of the 'Austrian' music (which, as a body, constitutes the largest contribution of any country to the standard concert repertoire) was written by Beethoven and Brahms, who lived in Vienna but were not Austrians; while much of the Vienna-born Schoenberg's music was written in Germany or the USA. Moreover, the Germanic surnames of many Canadian musical pioneers, whose biographies are fragmentary, could indicate German or Swiss descent as well as Austrian.

Perhaps the first Austrian musicians to perform in Canada were Tyrolean 'families,' whose yodelling and Ländler were popular in 19th-century North America. The Rainer Family, four brothers and a sister from the Zillerthal in Tyrol, toured North America 1839-43 and performed in Toronto in 1840, in Halifax and Saint John, NB in 1841, and in other Canadian towns.

Probably the first Austrian musicians to settle in Canada were Louis (Ludwig) Waizman(n) in 1893 and Luigi von Kunits and George Heinl in 1912. The most important immigration of Austrian musicians followed the 1938 Nazi invasion of Austria and included Emil Gartner and Greta Kraus in 1938, the violinist and teacher Joseph Berljawsky and Ida Halpern in 1939, and Franz Kraemer and Willy Amtmann in 1940. Hans Gruber, the conductor 1948-63 of the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, also moved to Canada in 1939. Among other Austrian-born musicians who moved to Canada were Emmy Heim (1947, although she made her Canadian recital debut in 1934); Alfred Rosé (1948, via the USA); Erwin Marcus (1949); the cellist and viola da gambist Wolfgang Grunsky (1951), who taught at the RCMT and specialized in renaissance music; Eli Kassner (1951); Irene Jessner (1952, via the USA); the composer and string bassist Paul Ruhland, who lived ca 1952-64 in Vancouver; Norbert Kraft (1954); Ernst and Marie Friedlander (1958); Haymo Taeuber, the conductor 1963-8 of the Calgary Philharmonic; Gerhard Wuensch (1964); and Anton Kuerti (1965, via the USA). Walter Kanitz (1944) was the host for light-classical-music radio shows in turn on the CBC, CHUM, CFRB, and CHFI in Toronto. S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté lived in Vienna 1939-51 with her Austrian husband Ferdinand Eckhardt (who later served as Austrian consul in Winnipeg). The conductor Agnes Grossmann first came to Canada in 1981 as visiting professor at the University of Ottawa, and returned to stay in 1984. The conductor Georg Tintner settled in Halifax in 1987. Both have conducted in many Canadian cities.

Among Austrian-Canadian ensembles are the Junior Edelweiss Choir ('Kinderchor') founded in the mid-1960s, and the Mixed Edelweiss Choir founded in 1963, both sponsored by the Austrian Club Edelweiss in Toronto. The Austrian community in Edmonton in 1967 began providing scholarships (Johann Strauss Foundation) to young Albertans (and continued to do so in 1991) for musical studies in Austria.

The first musical visitor to Austria from Canada may have been T.F. Molt. In 1825 the Quebec music teacher visited Beethoven, who dedicated to him the canon 'Freu Dich des Lebens'. The composer Arthur Dumouchel studied ca 1870-2 in Vienna, and some Canadian pianists of note studied in Austria with Theodor Leschetizky (Jan Cherniavsky, Jeannette Durno, J.D.A. Tripp), Julius Epstein (W.O. Forsyth), and Richard Epstein (Gladys Egbert). Douglas Haas, Bernard and Mireille Lagacé, and Denis Regnaud had lessons with the Viennese organist Anton Heiller, and Hubert Bédard, Bernard Lagacé, and Regnaud took tuition from the Viennese harpsichordist Isolde Ahlgrimm. Other Canadians who have studied in Austria include Victor Feldbrill, Anna-Marie Globenski, the musicologist Warren, Kirkendale, the pianist Sharon Krause, Percival Price, Émiliano Renaud, R. Murray Schafer, and Robert Silverman. A number of Canadian musicologists have spent study periods in Austria, including Geoffrey Payzant (on several occasions in connection with his studies of Eduard Hanslick), Zoltan Roman (a Mahler specialist), Rudolf Schnitzler (an authority on Viennese baroque oratorio), and Rita Steblin.

The first major Canadian artist to perform in Austria was Emma Albani, who gave two concerts (1893) in Vienna with an orchestra under Hans Richter. Among Canadian singers who have appeared with the Vienna State Opera or the Salzburg Festival are Pierrette Alarie, Kenneth Asch (Ascher Duo), Colette Boky, George London, Norman Mittelmann, Dodi Protero, Louis Quilico, Léopold Simoneau, Lilian Sukis, and Jon Vickers. Other Canadians who have performed in concert and recital in Austria include Mona Bates; Victor Braun, who won the International Mozart Competition in 1963; John Boyden, who made his recital debut in Vienna in 1961 and also recorded there; Maureen Forrester, who, in addition to concert performances, made many recordings in Vienna; Glenn Gould; and Flora Goulden. During European tours the MSO performed in Vienna's Grosser Musikvereinssaal in 1962 and the TS gave concerts there and in Linz in 1974. Ingemar Korjus won the International Hugo Wolf Lieder Competition in 1973, and Raymond Pannell's opera Aberfan was awarded the TV opera prize of the City of Salzburg in 1977. The Canadian bass Desmond Byrne was a laureate of both the Mozart and Belvedere competitions in Vienna in 1990.

Among the Austrian musicians who have performed in Canada are Eduard Strauss, who visited North America with his orchestra in 1890 and 1900-01, the violinists Fritz Kreisler and Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the pianists Paul Badura-Skoda, Alfred Brendel, Rudolf Buchbinder, and Friedrich Gulda, the sopranos Hilda Gueden and Rita Streich, the baritone Paul Schoeffler, the K & K Experimental Studio and Pupodrom, the Trapp Family Singers, the Trio Vienna, and the Vienna Boys' Choir. The JMC (YMC) sponsored tours of the Ebert Trio (1959-60, 1962-3) and the Eichendorff Quintet of Vienna in 1964 and 1965. The Vienna State Opera made its North American debut at Expo 67 and the Vienna Philharmonic also performed. Karl Boehm and Josef Krips conducted. (The Vienna Philharmonic also played in Toronto under Carl Schuricht and in Montreal in 1956 under André Cluytens and in 1962 under Herbert von Karajan.) Boehm had appeared previously in Canada as the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1961, as the conductor for a CBC TV Festival Orchestra in 1963, and with the TSO and Jon Vickers for CBC TV in 1965. Krips conducted the MSO, the CBC Symphony Orchestra and, in 1963, the TSO. Another Eduard Strauss, grand-nephew of Johann, the king of the waltz, was guest conductor of the MSO in 1965.

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