Back up to Canada this week for a performance of the violin concerto by John Weinzweig. It was composed over a period from 1951-1954 and premiered in 1955. This performance comes via the CBC Transcription Service and features the CBC Symphony, conduced by Geoffrey Waddington with Alfred Pratz, violin solo.
Weinzweig was born in Toronto in 1913. He began his studies at 14, taking lessons in Mandolin before taking up a number of other instruments. In 1937 he met American composer and educator Howard Hanson, who was in Toronto for a conducting engagement. Hanson suggested he enroll at the Eastman School Of Music, where Hanson was one of its principle figures, and study some of the more modern aspects of composition. He returned to Toronto in 1938, eventually taking up a post at The Toronto Conservatory of Music, teaching composition.
Weinzweig was very prolific – not even taking into consideration the vast amount of music he composed for use in CBC Radio Dramas and Documentaries from 1941 until 1951, becoming involved in some 100 programs. After the war he turned exclusively to concert music, where this Violin Concerto derives.
The Violin Concerto has been performed many times over the years, from one of its first performances via the BBC in 1956, which featured violinist Frederick Grinke and the BBC Symphony led by Boyd Neel, it has given Weinzweig and International reputation which lasted him up to his death in 2006. He has been recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, among then an Officer of The Order of Canada in 1974 and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the SOCAN Awards in Toronto in 2004.
Not a household name here in the U.S., but an important addition to the musical history of Canada as well as the world, and a worthy inclusion in the lexicon of 20th Century Composition.