The Little Symphonies

A radio series from CBC Montreal featuring music performed exclusively by the Little Symphonies Orchestra/Orchestre des Petites Symphonies, a classical orchestra.

A radio series from CBC Montreal featuring music performed exclusively by the Little Symphonies Orchestra/Orchestre des Petites Symphonies, a classical orchestra. The programs were broadcast initially on the French network, later also on the English network, and for a few years on the MBS network in the USA. The orchestra was founded in 1948 by Roland Leduc, its regular conductor until it disbanded in 1965. The weekly 30-minute broadcasts were produced by Albert Chamberland, Romain-Octave Pelletier II, and Jacques Bertrand, successively, in studio or at the Ermitage.

The ensemble (which on occasion numbered close to 50 musicians) at first concentrated on the music of the 17th and 18th centuries, but in 1950 it began to include works by 19th- and 20th-century composers such as Brahms, Britten, Dallapiccola, Debussy, Fauré, Franck, Honegger, Malipiero, Martin, Milhaud, Ravel, Roussel, and Webern. In 1957 it began to commission and/or premiere Canadian works, among them Pépin'sSymphony No. 2 and Monologue, Morel's Rituel de l'espace, and Violet Archer'sConcerto for violin, the last with Hyman Bress as soloist. During a 1950 concert Champagne'sPiano Concerto was premiered with Neil Chotem as soloist. 'The Little Symphonies' welcomed many other Canadian soloists, including Pierrette Alarie, Hervé and Gilles Baillargeon, Jean Belland, Lise Boucher, Frans Brouw, Paul Doyon, Rose Goldblatt, Glenn Gould, Ida Haendel, Jean-Paul Jeannotte, Walter Joachim, Wolfgang Kander, Stephen Kondaks, Jacques LeComte, Joseph and Rafael Masella, Zara Nelsova, Ross Pratt, André-Sébastien Savoie, Robert Savoie, and Léopold Simoneau. Among the program's foreign guests were René Benedetti, Karl Engel, Leon Goossens, Henri Honegger, Antonio Janigro, Yvonne Loriod, Marcel Mule, Vlado Perlemuter, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Max Rostal, Pierre Sancan, Gérard Souzay, Henryk Szeryng, Blanche Tarjus, Paul Tortelier, and Aline van Barentzen. Alexander Brott, Sylvio Lacharité, Maurice Le Roux, Michel Perrault, and Alberto Pizzini conducted on occasion. Among the concertmasters were D'Arcy Shea, Arthur Garami, George Lapenson, and Calvin Sieb, all of whom also performed as soloists. George H. Lapenson (b Chatham, Kent, England, of Latvian descent, ca 1920) studied with Adolphe Metz at the Riga Cons and as a young man became concertmaster of the radio orchestra in Riga. He was also concertmaster of the UFA film studios SO in Berlin and gave concerts and recitals throughout Europe. Arriving in Montreal in 1949, he was often a soloist on CBC radio and TV programs.

Because of the painstaking selection of its members and the extreme care with which the broadcasts were prepared, the Little Symphonies Orchestra soon became known for its excellence. Before 1958 the program was honoured twice with the Canadian Radio Award (a competition sponsored by the Canadian Association for Adult Education). This orchestra should not be confused with the Gagnier Montreal Little Symphony Orchestra or with the Little Symphony of Montreal.

See also Discography for R. Leduc.


Further Reading

  • 'The Little Symphony Orchestra of Montreal,' CBC Times, 30 Nov-6 Dec 1952

    '10e anniversaire des ''Petites Symphonies'',' SemRC, vol 8, 1 Feb 1958

    'The tenth birthday concert of ''Little Symphonies'',' CBC Times, 2-8 Feb 1958

    'Précieux apport à la culture musicale depuis plus de onze ans,' SemRC, vol 9, 28 Mar-3 Apr 1959