Back up to Canada this week for a sampling of the music of Czech-Canadian Composer Oskar Morawetz. His 1956 composition Overture To A Fairy Tale in this circa 1957 CBC Radio recording featuring the CBC Symphony conducted by Geoffrey Waddington.
Morawetz has been regarded as one of Canada’s leading contemporary composers. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1917, Morawetz studied Piano and Theory at the Prague Conservatory. He fled Czechoslovakia when the Nazis annexed the Sudeten territory, settling first in Vienna and then Paris and finally settling in Canada in 1940 where he became a naturalized citizen in 1946. From that point on, Morawetz gained a solid reputation for his compositional skills; his works being performed by some 120 Symphony Orchestras throughout the world.
Among some of his highly regarded works, his Piano Concerto and Sinfonietta for Winds and Percussion, which were both premiered by Zubin Mehta. His 1968 Memorial To Martin Luther King was commissioned by Mstislav Rostropovich and premiered by the National Symphony in Washington D.C. with Zara Nelsova as the cello soloist.
His compositions have won a wide variety of awards from Canada as well as the rest of the world – and his prolific catalog of works is still played frequently throughout Canada, since his death in 2007.
In addition to his compositions, Morawetz was also a highly regarded teacher, having taught at the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1946 before taking up a similar position at the University of Toronto where he taught composition from 1952 until 1982.
An avowed traditionalist, Morawetz steered clear of the atonal and experimental music that marked the 1960s, maintaining his own particular voice and style throughout his career.
This recording of the Overture To A Fairy Tale comes sometime after the premier, which was given on February 12, 19657 by The Halifax Symphony, conducted by Thomas Mayer. No exact date is indicated, but it would be safe to assume this radio recording was made between February and August of 1957 when it received its second public performance with the CBC Symphony, conducted by Walter Susskind.
In any event, have a listen if you aren’t familiar. It’s pleasant, straight-forward, honest music.