Leo Barkin

Leo Barkin. Pianist, teacher, coach, b Warsaw 18 May 1905, naturalized Canadian 1931, d Toronto 2 Dec 1992; honorary Artist Diploma (RCMT) 1989. As a child in Ukraine he studied with his father and at eight he began accompanying the elder Barkin's voice pupils.

Barkin, Leo

Leo Barkin. Pianist, teacher, coach, b Warsaw 18 May 1905, naturalized Canadian 1931, d Toronto 2 Dec 1992; honorary Artist Diploma (RCMT) 1989. As a child in Ukraine he studied with his father and at eight he began accompanying the elder Barkin's voice pupils. At 12 he performed as a soloist and accompanist in Ukraine and Poland. He joined his father, Abraham Barkin, in Toronto in 1926, and at first played for silent films and vaudeville at the Rialto Theatre. Subsequently he began performing for broadcast on CKNC, on various other private radio stations, and on the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CBC). In the first 50 years of Canadian radio he was heard on more broadcasts than any other pianist. He also taught piano until 1953 and continued to coach singers and instrumentalists after that time. As late as 1989 he still performed occasionally.

Barkin's adaptability and gifts as a sightreader earned him recognition as one of Canada's leading accompanists. He accompanied such string players as Mishel Piastro, Gregor Piatigorsky, William Primrose, Ruggiero Ricci, Joseph Szigeti, and Zara Nelsova and such singers as Igor Gorin, Dorothy Maynor, Jarmila Novotna, Jan Peerce, Leontyne Price, Lawrence Tibbett, Richard Tucker, and Jon Vickers. He recorded with Hyman Bress, John Dembeck, Avrahm Galper, Betty-Jean Hagen, Marta Hidy, Charles Jordan, Kathleen Parlow, Albert Pratz, and others (see Discographies for aforementioned). He gave support to many fledgling artists and performed with the Parlow String Quartet and other groups. He played orchestral keyboard parts with the Promenade Symphony, the CBC Symphony Orchestra, and, for more than 25 years, the TSO. He was soloist in many performances of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue including one (1941) under Paul Whiteman. Among the Canadian composers whose music he recorded were Fleming, Glick, Morawetz, and Willan. Barkin appeared at the Stratford Festival and in other Ontario centres, but rarely outside the province. In 1971 he was awarded the Canadian Music Council Medal. On 17 Jun 1976 he was honoured by the CBC in a radio documentary, in the course of which he claimed that 'to be an accompanist is to be somebody else's mind,' and his long-time associate Albert Pratz described him as 'a complete musician.' Barkin was a life member of the Toronto Musicians' Association.

See also Sara Barkin (his sister), and Jack Barkin (his brother).


Further Reading

  • Littler, William. 'Music's forgotten man likes it that way.' Toronto Daily Star, 29 May 1971

    'Leo Barkin played piano for top stars,' Toronto Star, 4 Dec 1992