George Fiala | The Canadian Encyclopedia


George Fiala

George (Joseph) Fiala, composer, pianist, organist, producer (born 31 March 1922 in Kiev, Ukraine; died 6 January 2017 in Montréal, QC).

George (Joseph) Fiala, composer, pianist, organist, producer (born 31 March 1922 in Kiev, Ukraine; died 6 January 2017 in Montréal, QC). Naturalized Canadian 1955; D MUS musicology (Akademische Hochschule für Musik, Berlin) 1945. Both his parents were pianists, and he began studying the piano at seven. In 1934 he took piano lessons from K. Mikhailoff and began learning theory and composition. A mazurka he composed was selected in 1935 for a collection of pieces by children published in Moscow. At the Tchaikovsky Cons in Kiev he studied 1939-41 under the Ukrainian composers Groudine, Lev Revutsky, Boris Liatoshynsky, and Andrew Olkhovsky. He was able to exchange ideas with Prokofiev, Shostakovitch, and Khatchaturian when they conducted their works in Kiev, and these meetings influenced his artistic development.

Fiala's activities were interrupted by the German occupation during World War II. He went to Berlin where under difficult circumstances he continued his studies in composition with Hansmaria Dombrowski, a pupil of Pfitzner, and took courses in conducting with Wilhelm Furtwängler. His doctoral thesis dealt with the problems of symphonic composition in Soviet Russia.

When the war ended Fiala settled in Belgium and studied with the composer Léon Jongen, director of the Brussels Cons. A scholarship from the Vatican in 1946 enabled him to concentrate exclusively on composition for three years. He produced about 40 works, including his Symphony No. 2 and his Piano Concerto No. 3. During his years in Belgium he took part as a composer, pianist, and conductor in the Séminaire des arts directed by André Souris in Brussels and thus came into contact with the new Parisian school represented mainly by Boulez, Nigg, and Leibowitz.

Fiala emigrated to Canada in 1949 and settled in Montreal where he remained except for 1959-60 which he spent in Sydney, Australia. In addition to his activities as composer, pianist, organist, and teacher, he also produced programs 1967-87 for the Russian section of RCI.

Fiala composed over 200 works of which about 15 have been published. His numerous commissions were from, among others, the MACQ (Montreal), the Guelph Spring Festival (Sinfonietta concertata, premiered by Joseph Macerollo with Kelsey Jones and the McGill Chamber Orchestra in 1972), the Canada Council and the Ukrainian Committee of Canada (Concerto for violin, premiered by Steven Staryk and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in 1974), the CBC (Symphony No. 4, the 'Ukrainian'), the Ukrainian National Association of the US (Festive Overture premiered in 1984 at Carnegie Hall in New York by the American SO under Wolodymyr Kolesnyk), the Alberta Ukrainian Commemorative Society (The Kurelek Suite premiered in 1985 by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and Concerto Cantata premiered in 1987 by Christina Petrowska), Edmonton's St Basil Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral (The Millennium Liturgy premiered in 1987 by the cathedral choir under Elizabeth Anderson), and the Montreal International Competition (Capriccio and Musique Concertante).

Fiala was attracted to the large forms - the symphony, the concerto, the sonata. Trained primarily in the traditional school, he adhered to the tonal system until the early 1960s. By his own admission he succeeded at that time in 'reconciling his method of composition with the principles of serialism'. This double allegiance was to characterize his subsequent output. His works have a logical structure, and the later pieces use a language that is often dissonant. The melodic line, although frequently angular, is lyrical and expressive, and the rhythms are always interesting. The instrumental writing is colourful, with rich contrasts. But on the aesthetic plane Fiala's work follows a traditional pattern. Above all he sought to be himself, which may explain in part his refusal to commit himself to the more adventurous paths of contemporary writing.

Fiala was a member of the CLComp and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. As of the early 1990s, he had begun to deposit his papers at the University of Calgary. The Ukrainian Committee of Canada awarded him the Shevchenko Medal in 1974, and the American Biographical Institute of Raleigh, NC, awarded him its honorary medal in 1987. Volume 27 of RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music (5-ACM 27), issued in 1987, is devoted to Fiala's compositions

Selected Compositions

Symphony in E Minor. 1950. Ms

Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors. 1962. Ms

Eulogy 'In Memory of President J.F. Kennedy'. 1965 (rev 1985). Ber (rental)

Montreal. 1967. BMIC 1969. RCI 291/5-ACM 27 (B. Brott)

Ouverture burlesque. 1972. MS

Symphony No. 4 'Ukrainian'. 1973. Ms

Ukrainian Triptych. 1975. Ms

Overtura buffa. 1981. Ms

Symphonie No. 5 'Sinfonia breve'. 1981. Ms

The Kurelek Suite. 1982. Ms. 5-ACM 27 (Edmonton Symphony Orchestra)

Festive Overture. 1983. Ms

Music for Strings No. 1 and 2. 1985, 1989. Str orch. Mss

OVERture AND OUT. 1989. Ms


George Fiala, 'Clatter clatter, bang bang and all sorts of modern music,' Montreal Star, 29 Mar 1969

Solists and Orchestra

Concertino. 1950. Pf, trumpet, timpani, strings. Ber (rental). RCI 184/5-ACM 27 (Goldblatt)

Suite Concertante. 1956. Ob, strings. Ber (rental). 5-ACM 27 (Duchesnes)

Capriccio. 1962. Pf, orch. Ms

Divertimento Concertante. 1965. Vn, orch. Ms

Musique Concertante. 1968. Pf, orch. Ms

Sérénade Concertante. 1968. Vc, strings. Ms

Sinfonietta Concertata. 1971. Acc, harpsichord, strings. Ms. RCI 385/5-ACM 27 (Macerollo)

Concerto. 1973. Vn, orch. Ms

Five Ukrainian Songs. 1973. Sop, orch. Ms

Divertimento Capriccioso. 1990. Fl, string. Ms


Chamber Music for Five Wind Instruments. 1948. Fl, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon. Ms. CBC SM-22/SM-186/5-ACM 27 (Tor Ww Quin)

3 Quartets. 1955-83. 4 saxophone. Ber 1970 (no. 2). (No. 2) RCI 279/RCA LSC-3141/5-ACM 27 (Pierre Bourque Saxophone Quartet)

Three Movements. 1957. Vn, viola, violoncello, piano. Ms. 5-ACM 27 (Trio de Montreal)

Cantilena and Rondo. 1963. Sop, recorder, piano. BMIC 1963

Pastorale and Allegretto. 1963. 4 recorder. BMIC 1963

Wallaby's Lullaby. 1960-4. Vn, piano. BMIC 1966

Sonatas: violoncello, piano (1969, 1971, 1982); violin, piano (1969); saxophone, piano (1970); fl, piano (1986); viola, piano (1989). Mss

Duo Sonata. 1971. Vn, harp. Ms. 5-ACM 27 (Garami)

Sonata for Two. 1971. Sop saxophone, accordion. Ms

Concertino Canadese. 1972. 4 harp. Ms

Sonata Breve. 1972. Cl, harp. Ms. 5-ACM 27 (R. Masella)

Partita da Camera. 1977. 2 violin. Ms

Duettino Concertante. 1981. Cl, harp. Ms

Terzetto Concertante. 1981. Cl, violoncello, harp. Ms

Partita concertata. 1982. Vn, violoncello. Ms

Quintette. 1982. Str quartet, piano. Ms

Two Movements. 1984. Ob, piano. Ms

Trio Sonata. 1987. Vn, violoncello, piano. Ms

Other works


Children's Suite. 1941 (rev 1975). Wat 1974

Ten Postludes. 1947 (rev 1968). Wat 1969. (No. 1, 2, 4-7, 9, 10) CMC-2 (Cavalho)

Australian Suite. 1963. BMIC 1963. (Mvts 1-4) CCM-2 (Cavalho)

Centennial Prelude. 1966. Ms. (1987). 5-ACM 27 (Fiala)

3 Sonatas. 1970-89. 2 piano. Mss. (No. 1) 5-ACM 27 (Zuk)

Piano Music No. 1-3. 1976-89. Left hand (no. 3). Mss

Concerto da Camera. 1978. Pf, 4 hands. Ms

Concerto Breve. 1979. 2 piano. Ms

Ukrainian Dance. 1979. 2 piano. Ms

Concerto Cantata. 1985. Pf, SATB. Ms

Canadian Sketches. 1989. Ms

Other works, including 8 sonatas for solo piano, and educational works

Choir or Voice

Canadian Credo (W.S. Johnson). 1966. SATB, orch. Ms

Four Russian Poems. 1968. V, piano. Wat 1972.

'Psalm'. 1974. Bass, organ. Ms

Three Ukrainian Lyrics. 1985. Bass, piano. Ms

The Millennium Liturgy. 1986. SATB. Ms

Also 'The Heart's Memory' (1981) and 'My Journey' (1982) for voice and piano, manuscripts

Further Reading