100 years at the Music Library: 1951-1960

Submitted by shawreb on

In 1921, the University of Toronto took over ownership and operation of the Toronto Conservatory and its library collection became the basis for the present-day Music Library. In celebration of our 100-year anniversary, we are in the process of featuring 100 items from our library on Instagram and Facebook. All items were selected by current and past library staff. If you missed them on social media, here they are again. To see all items selected thus far, check out the blog series "100 years at the Music Library". To learn more about the past, present, and future of the U of T Music Library, see the series articles written for Open Shelf, the Ontario Library Association (OLA) magazine: "Becoming University of Toronto Music Library."

The following items were selected and curated by one of our Library Technicians, Dave Krupka.

1950: Piano Sonata by John Weinzweig

Excerpt from scoreJohn Weinzweig received a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto in 1937. In addition to his activities as a composer, he had a distinguished career as an educator, teaching in the Faculty of Music for over 25 years (1952-1978). Among his many students was one long associated with the Music Library: composer and librarian John Fodi.

Weinzweig composed his Piano Sonata in 1950. A modernist work, it draws both upon the neo-classicism of Igor Stravinsky and the relaxed serialism of Alban Berg. Reviewing the premiere performance in Canadian Forum, the noted scholar (and amateur pianist) Milton Wilson remarked that "it seems to me the best composition by a Canadian that I have encountered." A fine recording of the sonata has been made by Toronto pianist (and Faculty of Music graduate) Mary Kenedi.

In the library:
Plangere edition available online to U of T users
CD by Mary Kenedi
CD available to listen online through Naxos

1951: Healey Willan and the Canadian League of Composers

Healey Willan CDIn the early 1950s, the musical culture of Toronto was decidedly conservative. Healey Willan, the city’s preeminent (though aging) composer, continued to work in the late romantic idiom he had absorbed in his youth. His "Five preludes on plainchant melodies" for solo organ, composed in his seventieth year, highlights his embrace of the past. As Patrick Wedd’s recording on the Naxos label demonstrates, it is a work of considerable artistic merit, but it has little to do with the dominant musical trends of the time.

It was in the context of such conservatism that three younger composers - John Weinzweig, Harry Somers and Samuel Dolin - met in the early months of 1951. Seeing a need to cultivate a greater appreciation of modernism, they resolved to create an organization that would promote a more contemporary style of music. By the year’s end, when the "Canadian League of Composers" held its formal inauguration, the group boasted some twenty members. Absent from their ranks was the venerable Healey Willan. This was no mere oversight, as a policy made official two years later makes explicit: membership was restricted to those sixty years of age or younger. While such ‘ageism’ has long since been abandoned, the irony remains – an association purporting to represent the nation’s composers failed to include the ‘dean’ of their profession.

Featured items from the library:
"Five preludes on plainchant melodies" (Score, Toronto Oxford University Press, 1951)
"Organ Works" (CD, Naxos Music Library, 2006)

See also:
"Healey Willan: Life and music by F.R.C. Clarke (University of Toronto Press, 1997)
"A 'League against Willan?': The Early Years of the Canadian League of Composers, 1951-1960" by Benita Wolters-Fredlund (Journal of the Society for American Music 5, no. 4 (2011):445-480)

1952: Catalogue of Canadian Composers by Helmut Kallmann (1952)

Helmut Kallmann and John BeckwithHelmut Kallmann, the longtime head of the National Library’s music division, led a remarkable life. Raised in a German-Jewish family in pre-war Berlin, he was sent to England in 1939 as part of the Kindertransport, only to be declared an “enemy alien” the following year. He was subsequently shipped to Canada, where he spent three years labouring in this nation’s largely forgotten internment camps. Finally released in 1943, he made his way to Toronto, finding employment in an accounting agency and resuming his education. By his late twenties, he had graduated from the University of Toronto’s new program in ‘School Music’ (now ‘Music Education’). During his student years, he developed an enduring interest in the music of his adopted land.

Rejecting a career in teaching, he took instead a modest job as a clerk in CBC’s music library. Soon, he found himself editing the corporation’s out-of-date, type-written Catalogue of Canadian Composers. In less than a year, he updated the existing material – a considerable task in itself - and added 118 new names to the register. The resulting 254-page volume, now including a brief historical survey of Canadian music, was published a year later. The names of many young composers – Harry Freedman and Harry Somers among them – appeared for the first time in a printed reference work. The Catalogue, while no longer current, remains a milestone of Canadian music scholarship, and is an essential resource for anyone investigating the development of music in this country.

In the library:
Catalogue of Canadian Composers by Helmut Kallmann

Pictured: Kallmann receiving an honorary doctorate from Dean John Beckwith (picture from the University of Toronto News, September 1971)

1953: Cantiones Mysticae by Godfrey Ridout

On October 16, 1953, the music of Canada was brought to the international stage when the renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski presented a program devoted entirely to works by Canadian composers. The concert, held at New York’s Carnegie Hall, attracted an audience of dignitaries that suggested to one reviewer "an event of special political and diplomatic significance." Critical reaction to the concert was documented in a small publication issued by BMI Canada. Entitled "Canadian music at Carnegie Hall: a report" it reprints articles (including reviews) relating to the event.

New York Times review of performance

Among the music heard that day was "Two mystical songs of John Donne" from Godfrey Ridout’s Cantiones Mysticae. (A manuscript of the composer’s own arrangement for voice and piano is held in the Music Library’s Rare Books Room, pictured below). Only a few years earlier, Ridout had joined the faculty of the University of Toronto, where he remained until 1982. The soloist on the occasion was a recent graduate of the university - the great Toronto soprano Lois Marshall. As luck would have it, a live recording of the performance has been preserved, and can be heard here.

Title page of manuscript

In the library:
"Canadian music at Carnegie Hall: a report" (Toronto, 1953)
Godfrey Ridout's Cantiones Mysticae (Manuscript, 1955)

1954: Music Library Catalogue - Hart House Orchestra

Music Library catalogueIn 1952, the English conductor Boyd Neel was appointed dean of Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, a position that in those days included oversight of the university’s music programs. Soon thereafter, he was invited to establish here a professional chamber ensemble, much like the one bearing his name that had been formed in England some twenty years earlier. The result was the founding of the Hart House Orchestra, a story recounted by Neel in his entertaining memoirs. The group’s Toronto debut was given on November 25, 1954 at the Eaton Auditorium. So successful was the concert that Columbia Artists, who had a representative in attendance, immediately booked the Orchestra for a tour.

Other international engagements would follow, including a concert at the 1958 Brussels World Fair, with Glenn Gould as guest soloist. The orchestra at this time also began a long running (and enormously popular) series of Sunday evening concerts at Hart House. These continued for more than fifteen years, ending only with Neel’s retirement in 1971. The orchestra made half a dozen recordings with Neel on a variety of labels, including the vinyl LP A concert for strings, available through the Music Library. The broad range of their repertoire (from baroque to modern) is documented in a typescript catalogue of the scores and parts Neel acquired for the orchestra. This is preserved as part of the Boyd Neel fonds, held in the library’s archive.

In the library:
Hart House Orchestra catalogue
Boyd Neel's memoirs
A concert for strings (LP)

1955: Music in Canada by Ernest MacMillan

Ernest MacMillanIn 1949, the Government of Canada established the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, chaired by future governor general Vincent Massey. The publication two years later of the Commission’s findings (the so-called "Massey Report") is a watershed event in Canadian culture, leading (among much else) to the founding of both our national library and the Canada Council for the Arts. Among those invited to share their expertise with the commission was Sir Ernest MacMillan, then dean of the Faculty of Music at U of T and head of the Canadian Music Council, an organization representing professional musicians. Following the lead of the Commission, the Council went on to sponsor what reviewer Harvey Olnick called the "purely musical sequel" to the Report: a volume of essays surveying the state of the musical arts in the country. Edited by MacMillan, and published in 1955, "Music in Canada" brings together the work of leading specialists of the day, including Helmut Kallmann ("Historical Background"), Marius Barbeau ("Folk-Song"), and Arnold Walter ("Education in Music"). The picture presented is one of a nation only beginning to establish an independent musical identity. As Olnick concludes in his review, "The events described in Music in Canada have not run their full course, but their great promise assures that this book will have to be re-written in a few years."

In the library:
Music in Canada by Ernest MacMillan (University of Toronto Press in cooperation with the Canadian Music Council, 1955)
Olnick's review in The Musical Quarterly 42, no. 1 (1956): 112-115.

1956: Canadian Music Journal

Title page of first volume of the Canadian Music JournalJournal publications devoted entirely to music have a long history in Canada. As early as 1856, the short-lived Canadian Musical Review was published by organist and writer George F. Graham. There has since been a proliferation of titles: some 300 are listed in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. As Kathleen McMorrow, the former head of the Music Library wryly notes, the “establishment of musical periodicals obviously rivals hockey as a national enthusiasm.”

Few of these publications have lasted more than a handful of years: a short life-span has been the sad fate of all too many. One whose early demise is to be particularly lamented is the Canadian Music Journal, founded in 1956. Published by the Canadian Music Council, then under the leadership of Sir Ernest MacMillan, it was soon recognized as the country’s “leading informative and critical periodical concerned with music.” Geoffrey Payzant, a specialist in musical aesthetics in the Department of Philosophy (and author, some years later, of an important volume on Glenn Gould) served as editor. The editorial board was headed by Arnold Walter, Director of the Faculty of Music. The list of contributors reads like a ‘who’s who’ of Canadian music of the time, from performers like Kathleen Parlow and Glenn Gould, to composers like Godfrey Ridout and R. Murray Shafer. Despite achieving a subscription rate of more than a thousand, economic pressures proved too great, and publication ceased in 1962 - a mere six years beyond the appearance of the first issue.

Further reading in the library:
Kathleen McMorrow in Notes 36/4 (1980).
Helmut Kallmann, "The Canadian Music Journal" in The Canadian Encyclopedia
George Falle, Canadian Forum, September 1958
Geoffrey Payzant, Glenn Gould: Music and Mind (1978).

1957: Canada Council Opening Proceedings

Front cover of book"No composer of music can live at all on what Canada pays him for his compositions." So observed the panel of the Massey Commission in its 1951 Report on the state of the arts in this country. The Commission recommended the creation of an independent government body to support cultural activity. Six years later the "Canada Council for the Encouragement of the Arts, Letters, Humanities and Social Sciences" (now the Canada Council for the Arts) was established.

For over 60 years, the Council has played a central role in the development of the arts in Canada. Composers have benefited from the opportunity to hone their craft through direct grants for overseas study. Walter Buczynski, who taught at the Faculty of Music for many years, studied in Paris in the 1960s with the renowned composition teacher Nadia Boulanger. Later, a Council grant permitted the commission his Sonata de Cameron for piano. The autograph manuscript of the sonata is now held in our Archives, along with the composer’s correspondence with the Council. A recording of the piece was made by fellow faculty member Antonin Kubalek, who had obtained the original grant.

The activities of the Council have not been without criticism. Questions have arisen about the politics of the grant system: who decides, and who benefits? Members of marginalized communities have often felt left out. But whatever its faults, the historical significance of the Council can hardly be denied. Those interested in examining its role in Canadian music might begin by perusing the Council’s "founding document" - the Opening Proceedings of 1957.

In the library:
Canada Council. Opening proceedings (Ottawa, 1957)
Sonata de Cameron by Walter Buczynski (Toronto, 1983)
Walter Buczynski fonds
Kubalek's recording of Sonata de Cameron (2010)

1958-1959: Night Blooming Cereus by John Beckwith and James Reaney

Clipping from Beckwith fondsIn a 1958 essay surveying the state of music in Canada, John Beckwith observed that there were some thirty composers in the country “writing music of interesting and serious enough content to make me, personally, anxious to hear their next composition.” No individuals were named, but any objective list would surely have included Beckwith himself. Indeed, that same year would see completion of his first dramatic work, the one-act opera Night Blooming Cereus, with libretto by poet and playwright James Reaney. A concert version of the opera was presented on March 5, 1959, in a CBC radio broadcast sponsored by the Canada Council. Critic Kenneth Winters, reviewing the performance, deemed the music “apt, active, serious and witty.” A fully staged production was subsequently mounted at Hart House Theatre, during the 1959/1960 season. Night Blooming Cereus has since been produced on half a dozen occasions, placing it among Canada’s most successful operatic works.

The autograph score of the opera, as well as materials documenting its production, can be found in the John Beckwith fonds of the Music Library Archive.

1960: A History of Music in Canada by Helmut Kallmann

Title pageIn 1950, Helmut Kallmann, freshly graduated from the University of Toronto, contributed a short essay to the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Monthly Bulletin. Entitled "Canadian music as a field for research" the paper argues for a systematic investigation of this country’s musical history. Perusing the shelves of the university library, Kallmann finds "not a single volume … devoted entirely to a survey of the music of Canada." The problem, he realizes, is the "lack of a comprehensive body of readily available factual material." Kallmann had, he reveals, already begun the task of compiling such material himself. He offers a few intriguing examples of his discoveries: an obscure Montreal organist (Theodore Molt) for whom Beethoven composed a short canon; a less than common instrument (the bassoon) that is, unexpectedly, the first to make an appearance in the historical record of Toronto. Kallmann ends with a few suggestions for how a history of the kind he envisions might be written. "Above all," he notes, "music has to be seen as a phase of a people’s social and cultural life."

Was Kallmann issuing a call to action or making an announcement of intent? Whatever the case, he would continue in the coming years to collect material wherever he could find it. By the end of the decade, he had accumulated enough to produce the first thorough account of Canada’s music. Published in 1960, A history of Music in Canada, 1534-1914 remains essential reading for any student of our musical heritage.

In the library:
A History of Music in Canada, 1534-1914 by Helmut Kallman (University of Toronto Press, 1960)