Nicholas Goldschmidt | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Nicholas Goldschmidt

Goldschmidt, Nicholas
Nicholas Goldschmidt's administrative talents have made him the country's leading festival organizer.

Goldschmidt, Nicholas

 Nicholas Goldschmidt. Conductor, administrator, teacher, baritone, pianist, b Tavikovice, Moravia (Czechoslovakia) 6 Dec 1908, naturalized Canadian 1951, d Toronto 8 Feb 2004; honorary FRHCM 1978; honorary D MUS (Guelph) 1984; honorary ARCT 1987; honorary D MUS (Toronto) 1989, honorary LL D (York) 1999. A grand-nephew of the Austrian composer Adalbert von Goldschmidt, he studied at the Vienna Academy of Music with Josef Marx (composition), Paul Weingarten (piano), and Corneille de Kuyper (voice). After conducting in various cities in Czechoslovakia and Belgium he emigrated in 1937 to the USA, where he was director of opera 1938-42 at both the San Francisco Conservatory and Stanford University and director of the opera department 1942-4 at Columbia University.

At the invitation of Arnold Walter, Goldschmidt moved to Toronto, where he served 1946-57 as the first music director of the Royal Conservatory Opera School (University of Toronto Opera Division), 1949-57 as the first music director of the CBC Opera, and 1950-7 as music director of the Opera Festival Association, conducting productions of 13 operas, including Rigoletto (1950, 1954), The Marriage of Figaro (1951, 1955), and Hansel and Gretel (1957). His position as music director 1950-8 of the University of British Columbia summer school preceded his appointment as artistic and managing director 1957-62 of the Vancouver International Festival.

Positions mid-1960s to 1970s

While occupied 1964-8 as chief of the performing arts division of the Centennial Commission, responsible for organizing the nationwide celebrations and events of Festival Canada (1967), he also founded the Centennial Choir in Ottawa, which he conducted until 1972.

Goldschmidt became artistic director of the Edward Johnson Music Foundation in 1967 and served 1968-75 as music director of the University of Guelph, initiating and co-ordinating its Guelph Spring Festival in 1968 under the foundation's sponsorship. Continuing as the festival's artistic director until 1987, he conducted its productions of Britten's The Prodigal Son (1969, the North American premiere), The Burning Fiery Furnace (1971), Noye's Fludde (1972), and The Rape of Lucretia (1974), Handel's Acis and Galatea (1975), Britten's realization of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1976), Derek Healey'sSeabird Island (1977, the premiere), a dramatization of Berlioz' oratorio L'Enfance du Christ (1980), Smetana's The Two Widows (1982, Canadian premiere), Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice (1984), and Mozart's opera buffa La finta giardiniera (1987). He also organized and prepared a concert of works by Krzysztof Penderecki, conducted at Guelph by the composer 8 May 1976. The festival honoured Goldschmidt on his retirement by establishing a scholarship for young singers in his name.

In 1975 Goldschmidt added to his duties those of consultant to the Algoma Fall Festival, Sault Ste Marie, Ont, also conducting productions and organizing the Algoma Festival Choir.

Positions 1980 to 2004

In 1980 Goldschmidt served as chairman of the national committee set up to organize the Healey Willan centenary celebrations, and that same year was appointed a member of the Canada Council. He was a member 1981-3 of the advisory board of the National Library of Canada.

Goldschmidt was artistic consultant for the 1984 Toronto International Festival, and the initiator and executive director of the 1985 International Bach Piano Competition. He was also the artistic director for the 1989 International Choral Festival held in Toronto and the executive director of the 1991 Glory of Mozart Festival held in Joliette, Que; St. John's, Nfld; and Toronto.

Later festivals organized by Goldschmidt included two more Joy of Singing International Choral Festivals (1993 and 2002), the National Arts Centre's 1997-8 summer festivals, and a Benjamin Britten Festival in 2003. He conducted Noye's Fludde again, on tour in 1995 for the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations and, for the year 2000 millennium celebrations, spearheaded the national Music Canada Musique 2000 and its more than 60 commissions of new Canadian compositions.

As Performer

Occasionally a soloist in oratorio or a recitalist in lieder, Goldschmidt made a specialty of Schubert's song cycle Winterreise, accompanying himself at the piano, and he gave many master classes in lieder. He accompanied himself in Schubert songs on the recording Emmy Heim - A Self Portrait (Hallmark SS-2).

Honours and Assessment

Goldschmidt's infectious enthusiasm for music combined with a resilient optimism, an instinct for the ripeness of an opportunity, and an ability to calculate a risk, made him Canada's most active festival entrepreneur in the years following his pioneer work with the Royal Conservatory Opera. He was the subject of a three-part CBC radio documentary titled 'Nicholas Goldschmidt: Reminiscences,' in 1983, and of a CBC-TV episode of Adrienne Clarkson Presents. His many colleagues honoured him on his 80th birthday, 6 Dec 1988, with a concert at Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre. In 1976 Goldschmidt received the Canadian Music Council Medal, and he received the University of Alberta National Award in Music in 1979. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978, then made a Companion in 1989; the Order of Ontario followed in 1994, and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 1997, in addition to a number of international recognitions. The Royal Conservatory of Music offers a scholarship in his name.


'Be exalted: convocation address,' Music, vol 11, Jan-Feb 1988

Further Reading