Helmut Max Kallmann, CM, music librarian, historian (born 7 August 1922 in Berlin, Germany; died 12 February 2012 in Ottawa, ON). A pioneering music historian, Helmut Kallmann was the foremost scholar of Canadian music history. The publication of his A History of Music in Canada 1534–1914 (1960), the subject’s first comprehensive treatment, established the field and encouraged other researchers. He was a librarian at the CBC, head of the music division at the National Library of Canada (now Library Archives Canada), and co-founder of the Canadian Music Library Association (now Canadian Association of Music Libraries). Kallmann co-edited both editions of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (1981 and 1992) and was a Member of the Order of Canada.
Early Years and Education
As a boy, Kallmann received informal piano lessons from his father, a lawyer and amateur musician, until being sent to England in 1939 as part of the Kindertransport rescue mission, in which nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Central and Eastern Europe were taken in by the United Kingdom in the months before the start of the Second World War. He lived for a short time in London, where he studied piano with Margery Moore and music theory with the Canadian Russell E. Chester. After the British government changed the status of Jewish refugees to “enemy aliens” he was imprisoned on the Isle of Man and then sent to Canada in 1940, where he was interned as a prisoner of war, first in New Brunswick and then in three camps in Québec, until 1943. He became a naturalized Canadian in 1946. His mother, father and sister were unable to get the necessary papers to leave Germany and died in the Holocaust.
In 1944, Kallmann settled in Toronto, where he studied piano with Naomi Adaskin, Greta Kraus (1944–45), and Florence Steinhauer (1947–48). From 1946–49, he studied music at the University of Toronto, were his teachers included Richard Johnston, Robert Rosevear, Arnold Walter and Leo Smith. Dismayed that no Canadian composers were included in the music history curriculum, Kallmann began to gather information on Canadian composers and search for published compositions, a project that would constitute his life’s work.
CBC Music Library
From 1950–70, Kallmann worked in the CBC Toronto Music Library, where he built up a substantial archive of approximately 1,000 Canadian compositions and organized performances of some of the works. He revised and edited the CBC’s Catalogue of Canadian Composers (1952) and wrote the seminal historiography A History of Music in Canada 1534–1914 (1960), the first book of its kind. He became the Music Library’s supervisor in 1962, and in 1965 he organized the 13-week CBC Radio documentary series, “Music in Canada.”
He then focused on more specialized areas, such as the history of Canadian music periodicals and music publishing, the biographies of Joseph Quesnel, Theodore F. Molt, and James P. Clarke, and the inventories of early printed music and Canadian-built, 19th-century instruments. This work contributed to the modern revival of important compositions including Quesnel’s Colas et Colinette, (ca. 1789) which was possibly the first operatic work composed in Canada, Siege of Quebec (see Battle Music), which was a tribute to General James Wolfe, and the nineteenth-century operas, Quesnel’s Lucas et Cécile, and The Widow, by Calixa Lavallée.
National Library of Canada
In 1970, Kallmann was appointed chief of the newly created music division at the National Library of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada), where he was responsible for building and preserving an all-encompassing collection of musical Canadiana comprising printed material, manuscripts and recordings. The music division soon became a pinnacle for research in its field. Kallmann was also a pioneer in planning musical exhibitions, including ones on the compositions of Healey Willan in 1972 and Glenn Gould in 1988.
After Kallmann retired from the National Library in 1987, a festschrift (a book honouring a respected academic) was published in his honour — Musical Canada: Words and Music Honouring Helmut Kallmann (1988), edited by John Beckwith and Frederick A. Hall.
Kallmann was the editor of the Catalogue of Orchestral Music (1957), published by the Canadian League of Composers, and wrote the preface for Giles Bryant’s Healey Willan Catalogue (1972). With Gilles Potvin and Kenneth Winters, he was editor of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (1981) and was responsible for its overall content. Kallmann and Potvin shared the editorship of the second edition of the encyclopedia, which was published in 1992.
Throughout its operation from 1982 to 2003, Kallmann was chair of the Canadian Musical Heritage Society, an organization devoted to locating, editing and publishing pre-1950 musical compositions. The Society produced 25 volumes of some 1,500 compositions by 1999. Kallmann also assisted a number of international music dictionaries, such as Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians,to include or correct Canadian entries.
During his retirement, Kallmann produced a newsletter for his fellow Jewish internees. He also contributed numerous articles for scholarly publications in Canada and abroad, and was a contributing editor for the second edition of the comprehensive German music encyclopedia, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart.
Kallmann was a co-founder of the Canadian Music Library Association (CMLA) and its chairman from 1957–58 and 1967–68. He initiated Canadian participation in the International Association of Music Libraries (serving as the Canadian delegate from 1959–71) and was responsible for the Canadian work for its Répertoire international des sources musicales from 1953–87 (see Music Libraries). Kallmann initiated various projects and publications that were carried out by the CMLA and the Canadian Association of Music Libraries (CAML), including the Bio-Bibliographical Finding List of Canadian Musicians (1961) and Musical Canadiana, a Subject Index (1967).
He was a director (1970–71) and a vice president (1971–76) of the Canadian Music Council, and an honorary historian of the Canadian League of Composers. He served on the editorial boards of The Canadian Music Journal and The Canada Music Book, and was a co-founder of the Canadian Musical Heritage Society. In 1975, he was appointed an honorary adjunct professor, and later an adjunct research professor, at Carleton University.
Honours and Legacy
Kallmann’s work and dedication helped facilitate the establishment of Canadian music courses at universities, and encouraged others to undertake or continue historical research and to perform older Canadian music. He was awarded the Canadian Music Council Medal in 1977 and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1986.
The Helmut Kallmann Award for Distinguished Service relating to music libraries and archives in Canada was established by the Canadian Association of Music Libraries in 2000. In 2006, he was the first librarian to receive the Friends of Canadian Music Award, given by the Canadian Music Centre and the Canadian League of Composers. In 2017, Carleton University created the Helmut Kallmann Chair for Music in Canada. The position, which the university said “will work with undergraduate and graduate students and research topics of Canadian music,” was first filled in 2019 and was made possible by a $2 million donation from Elaine Keillor.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.
- Canadian Music Council Medal, Canadian Music Council (1977)
- Member, Order of Canada (1986)
- Friends of Canadian Music Award, Canadian Music Centre and the Canadian League of Composers (2006)
Selected Writings by Helmut Kallmann
- “Canadian music as a field for research,” The Toronto Conservatory of Music Bulletin, March 1950.
- Catalogue of Canadian Composers, revised, enlarged ed (Toronto 1952).
- “Audio-visual aids to music education in Canada,” International Society for Music Education series Technical Media in Music Education (1957).
- “Kanada,” Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) (Kassel 1958).
- “From the archives,” The Canadian Music Journal, Summer 1958.
- “From the archives: organs and organ players in Canada,” The Canadian Music Journal, Spring 1959.
- “From the Archives: The Montreal Gazette on Music from 1786 to 1797,” CMJ, vol. 6, Spring 1962.
- Directory of Degree Graduates, University of Toronto Music Alumni Association (Toronto 1964).
- A History of Music in Canada 1534-1914 (Toronto 1960, 1969, with amendments 1987).
- “Music in Canada,” CBC Times, 15-21 May 1965.
- “Joseph Quesnel, Pioneer Canadian Composer,” CanComp, Vol. 3, October 1965.
- The Toronto Conservatory of Music Bulletin, Winter 1966.
- “The acceptance of ‘O Canada,’” CanComp, vol. 8, April 1966.
- “Music in Canada, 1867, a long glance backward/Musique au Canada en 1867,” Musical Canada, 3, July–August 1967.
- “Music,” Canadian Annual Review, ed. John Saywell (Toronto 1968, 1969, 1970).
- “Canadian tasks for musicology,” Report of the First Canadian Studies Seminar, University of Toronto, 7 November 1970 (Toronto, typescript 1970).
- “Beethoven and Canada,” The Canada Music Book, 2, Spring–Summer 1971.
- “Music in Upper Canada,” The Shaping of Ontario (Belleville 1985).
- “Canada and the music of the Grand Siècle,” Musical Canada, 58, December 1986.
- “Canada's musical past: a forgotten heritage recalled,” Music, vol. 12, June–July 1989.
- - ed. The Canadian Musical Heritage, Vol 8: Music for Orchestra I (Ottawa 1990).
- “Music History,” Canadian Encyclopedia
- “The Canadian League of Composers in the 1950s – the heroic years,” Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario, vol. 9, 1984.
- “Mapping Canada’s music: A life’s task," in Music in Canada/La Musique au Canada, Vol 1, ed. Guido Bimberg (Bochum 1997).
- Ed. The Canadian Musical Heritage, Vol 22: Piano Music III: Marches and Dances (Ottawa 1998).
- - ed. Ex-Internees Newsletter, September 1996 – February 2004. 10 issues.
- Program note essays for Ten Centuries Concerts
- Record album notes for Joseph Quesnel’s Colas et Colinette and Calixa Lavallée’s The Widow
- His hundreds of publications between 1949 and 2005 can be found in lists provided by Beckwith and Hall’s Musical Canada, Dawn Keer’s thesis, “Helmut Kallmann: An Account of His Contributions to Music Librarianship and Scholarship in Canada” (1991) and Mapping Canada’s Music: Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann (2013) edited by John Beckwith and Robin Elliott.