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Symposium: John Weinzweig, His Contemporaries and His Influence March 9, 2013 at the University of Toronto

John Weinzweig, His Contemporaries and Influence

March 9, 2013, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto

John Weinzweig (1913-2006) was a leading composer, teacher, and advocate for contemporary music. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, the Institute for Canadian Music, together with the John Weinzweig Centenary Committee and the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, announces a symposium “John Weinzweig, His Contemporaries and Influence,” to be held at the University of Toronto, March 9, 2013 from 10am to 5pm in the Edward Johnson Building Room 330. There will be two concerts of music by John Weinzweig during the symposium: the first at 7:30 pm on March 8, 2013, and the second, by the Cecilia String Quartet, at 12 noon on March 11, 2013 (the actual 100th anniversary of his birth).

It is intended that a future issue of Intersections: Canadian Journal of Music will be devoted to selected conference proceedings.

John Weinzweig, ses contemporains et son influence

du 9 mars 2013 - Faculté de musique, Université de Toronto

John Weinzweig (1913-2006) était un compositeur, enseignant et défenseur de la musique contemporaine de premier plan. À l’occasion du centenaire de sa naissance, l'Institut de musique canadienne, en collaboration avec le Comité du centenaire de John Weinzweig et la Faculté de musique de l'Université de Toronto, annonce le symposium « John Weinzweig, ses contemporains et son influence », qui se tiendra à l'Université de Toronto, du 9 mars 2013 à 10h00 de 17h00 dans la salle 330 (Edward Johnson Buildilng). Le colloque inclura deux concerts des œuvres de John Weinzweig : le premier, à 19 h 30 le 8 mars 2013, et le second, par le Cecilia String Quartet, à 12 heures le 11 mars 2013 (date du centenaire de sa naissance).

Un numéro futur d’Intersections: revue canadienne de musique sera consacré à certaines délibérations de la conférence.

Symposium schedule details:

10:00am-5:00pm in Room 330 (Edward Johnson Building)

Introduction – Daniel Weinzweig

10:00 – 10:05 am

Papers 1 and 2 – Publishing Weinzweig
10:05 – 10:35 am     Robin Elliott – “John Weinzweig and the String Quartet”
10:35 – 11:15 am     Brian McDonagh – “Says What? Publishing a Performing Edition of John Weinzweig's Private Collection

11:15 am – 11:30 am  Coffee break

Papers 3 and 4 – Weinzweig in Context
11:30 – 12:00         Alexa Woloshyn – “From Canada to Israel in the Musical Works of John Weinzweig and David Kaplan”
12:00 – 12:30         Walter Kreyszig – “The Significance of the Motif in its Prime, Inversion, Retrograde, Retrograde Inversion, Rotation, and Related Motivic Transformations as Extension of the Eighteenth-Century Fortspinnung in John Weinzweig’s Twelve Divertimenti, 1946-1998: Approaches Towards His Formulation of a Universality of Language”

12:30 – 1:30 pm  Lunch (provided for presenters)

Papers 5 and 6 – Weinzweig’s Piano Music
1:30 – 2:10 pm     Elaine Keillor – “Weinzweig’s Late Piano Works – Netscapes and Playnotes
2:10 – 2:50 pm     Diana Dumlavwalla – “The Pedagogical Piano Works of John Weinzweig”

2:50 – 3:05 pm  Coffee break

Papers 7 and 8 – Weinzweig’s Associates
3:05 – 3:45 pm     John Beckwith – “The Piano, as Featured by Weinzweig and Two of his  Students”
3:45 – 4:15 pm     David Jaeger – “Commissioning Weinzweig”

Round Table: Conversations about John Weinzweig
Discussants:     John Beckwith, Victor Feldbrill, David Jaeger, Mary Morrison, Larry Weinstein, Daniel Weinzweig
4:15 – 5:00 pm

Symposium Abstracts

The Piano, as Featured by Weinzweig and Two of his Students

John Beckwith

This lecture-recital centres on solo-piano works by Weinzweig, Harry Somers, and myself. Besides the obvious question, to what extent did he influence his students in dealing with keyboard idioms?, others arise, such as: how virtuosic are the pieces? and what are their characteristic models?

Weinzweig's piano improvisations and his habit of composing at the piano, together with his long list of works for piano solo or including the piano as a foreground instrument, are significant aspects of his distinctive compositional voice. Somers was a concert-rank pianist, and composed five sonatas, three concertos, and a number of shorter works for the piano. Similarly, piano studies were a major part of my musical formation, and among various piano works is a cycle of four short pieces which I dedicated to Weinzweig on his eighty-eighth birthday (thinking of the piano as the instrument with eighty-eight keys).

Illustrating the commentary will be live performances of excerpts from Weinzweig's Micromotions (1988), Somers's Fourth Sonata (1950), and my own March, March! (2001).

The Pedagogical Piano Works of John Weinzweig

Diana Dumlavwalla

As one of Canada’s most influential creators of new music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, John Weinzweig spent much time dedicating his career to the development of up-and-coming composers. While most of his effort was devoted to guiding musicians at the advanced level, he did turn his attention to developing pianists by contributing to the large collection of Canadian pedagogical repertoire. This lecture-recital will focus on two sets of pieces that Weinzweig specifically composed for young piano students. Written in 1994, Diversions: 4 Pieces for Young Pianists provides students with a selection of contemporary works written in a wide variety of moods and characters.  In 2000, Weinzweig composed the collection 7 Piano Duets, the only work he wrote for one piano, four hands. This presentation will concentrate on the fifth and sixth selections from this group, "Ballerina" and "Joie de Vivre."

Teachers who explore these works with their students will find opportunities to address many specific and essential pedagogical issues. First and foremost, these pieces expose budding musicians to compositions that employ more modern compositional techniques. Students typically do not gain familiarity with this musical language through the standard pedagogical repertoire. Additionally, teachers can also use these pieces to focus on the development of finger independence, coordination, articulation, changing metres, musical textures and theoretical concepts.

At the conclusion of this lecture, two young pianists will perform these works, providing listeners with a realistic presentation, just as John Weinzweig intended for these compositions.

John Weinzweig and the String Quartet

Robin Elliott

I recently prepared the three completed and preserved string quartets by John Weinzweig for publication by Plangere Editions. Dating from 1937, 1946, and 1962, the three works are in quite different compositional idioms and show varied aspects of the composer’s musical personality.

The first string quartet is a student work in a tonal idiom; although withdrawn from circulation by the composer in 1975, the work is still available, in two slightly different versions, at the University of Toronto Music Library and the Canadian Music Centre. It is of interest for the insight it affords into the composer’s musical education at the University of Toronto.

The second string quartet was commissioned for the inaugural season of a local concert series. It was premiered by the Parlow String Quartet in the spring of 1947 and recorded by the Canadian String Quartet for Columbia Records in 1962. It is the first Canadian string quartet to use twelve-tone techniques, though in a very rudimentary way, to generate melodic material. The quartet features other musical traits that would become characteristic of the composer’s mature idiom: ostinati, lean textures, and an emphasis on quirky, unpredictable melodic lines.

The third string quartet is widely considered to be one of Weinzweig’s finest works. It was premiered by the Canadian String Quartet in 1963, a year after they had recorded the composer’s second string quartet. It is in five movements: the first, third, and fifth are Adagios, while the second and forth are contrasting fast movements. Of particular interest is the finale, labelled “In Memoriam”: it is a tribute to the composer’s mother, who died while he was writing the work. The entire work is based on a single row form, which is adapted in the last movement to allow Weinzweig to incorporate the opening motive of the Kol Nidre, the Jewish prayer which serves as an introduction to the service for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

This presentation will consider the particular qualities of the three string quartets, and will also explain editorial challenges and decisions that arose in the context of preparing the works for publication.

Commissioning Weinzweig

David Jaeger

CBC Radio commissioned twelve original compositions by John Weinzweig between the years 1943 and 1977. The first was Our Canada (1943), a suite from incidental music commissioned by the CBC for historical-documentary radio dramas. The last was Private Collection (1977), which I had the pleasure of commissioning on behalf of the CBC’s Radio Music Department. This latter work had its first broadcast on Two New Hours, in March 1978. Two New Hours was a new network radio series which I had created in 1977 and which had only begun to be heard on the so-called CBC FM Network (eventually renamed CBC Radio 2) in January 1978.

In the years between these two dates, CBC Radio called upon John Weinzweig to create works to enhance all manner of programming needs. The Corporation commissioned concertos, orchestral works (both large and small in scale), the dramatic composition Wine of Peace (1957), and several solo and chamber works. This presentation will examine some of these works, with brief audio excerpts, and I will share some of my first-hand experiences with John Weinzweig as our relationship changed from student-teacher to broadcaster-composer.

Weinzweig’s Late Piano Works – Netscapes and Playnotes

Elaine Keillor

Weinzweig’s main musical instrument for performance and working out compositional ideas was the piano. Accordingly it is not surprising that he returned to this instrument throughout his career and particularly in his later years to produce compositions.  In 1973, he wrote Impromptus for Piano: 23 Events. Its organization of short fragments, described by the composer as “a juxtaposition of thematic quotations … with interpolations of musical memories from years past” was to some extent inspired by Erik Satie, the composer who in Weinzweig’s words “gave music the twist of satire and parody.”

The composer’s piano works of the years 2000 through 2002—Diversions: 4 Pieces for Young Pianists, 7 Piano Duets, Netscapes, Swing Time, and Playnotes—are either a grouping of short pieces or consist of short fragments as in Impromptus. This presentation will include performances of Netscapes (ca. 8:30’), entitled “a divertissement” on the copy sent by the composer to this pianist, and Playnotes  (ca. 12 ‘) that has eight different short pieces.  The performances will be preceded by a brief discussion of what the composer’s sketches reveal about the composition of these works and some interrelationships those outlines present between the two sets for piano.

The Significance of the Motif in its Prime, Inversion, Retrograde, Retrograde Inversion, Rotation, and Related Motivic Transformations as Extension of the Eighteenth-Century Fortspinnung in John Weinzweig’s Twelve Divertimenti, 1946-1998: Approaches Towards His Formulation of a Universality of Language

Walter Kreyszig

John Weinzweig is widely regarded as the doyen of Canadian music, with his contribution to non-tonal music discussed, especially at the University of Toronto, in seminars workshops on his own oeuvre as well as related in composition lessons. In his oeuvre, comprising foremost instrumental works, Weinzweig represents the first Canadian composer to focus on the twelve-tone technique, as developed under the aegis of Hauer and Schoenberg. Rather than slavishly adopting the twelve-tone technique in its totality, Weinzweig generally resorts to the twelve-tone row not in a literal sense as suggested by Schoenberg and Webern, but rather as a source for deriving various motives, thus adhering to the eighteenth-century technique of the Fortspinnung. To a far greater extent than any of his Canadian contemporaries, Weinzweig developed a distinct personal idiom noted for its utter economy in the use of musical instruments, a rhythmic vitality, derived from Stravinsky, a clear sense of form and transparent homophonic/contrapuntal textures derived from Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. In his vast contribution to the divertimento, Weinzweig generally displays a preference for a solo instrument and a small instrumental ensemble, with the latter accorded a double function, namely as a means of providing an accompaniment for the solo instrument and also as a device for furnishing a contrast to the solo instrument, thus extending the notion of the eighteenth-century concertato idiom. These concrete notions with regard to the instrumentation and the aforementioned compositional techniques receive ample and systematic considerations in the series of twelve divertimenti. So profound was the impact of Weinzweig on the Canadian musical scene that already by 1981, Weinzweig could justifiably claim that “the language I use is now universal” (see Sheldon Kirshner, “Composer Says His Music is a Response ‘to my time’,” in: The Canadian Jewish News, 21 May 1981, p. 16).

Says What? Publishing a Performing Edition of John Weinzweig's Private Collection

Brian McDonagh

This lecture-recital focuses on the song cycle Private Collection, for which I have very recently negotiated the publishing agreement. I will discuss the unusual traits of the cycle, place it within the context of Canadian Art Song, and question whether it may not be an early example of a new form of theatrical art song—a related genre that seems to be gaining momentum.

These points will be illustrated by live performances of excerpts from the cycle by two undergraduate students: Allie Smithers and Alex Mieszkalski.

From Canada to Israel in the Musical Works of John Weinzweig and David Kaplan

Alexa Woloshyn

The Canadian music scene has a long history of composers whose musical works and commitment to music education and advocacy have built the vibrant musical community we celebrate today. Alongside John Weinzweig’s legacy of music and musical institutions, this paper considers another important leader: David Kaplan (b. 1923).

Like Weinzweig, Kaplan helped found important institutions (e.g., the Saskatchewan Music Council in 1967), continues to support community and emerging musicians with many beginner and intermediate-level works, and has had an active career as an educator, conductor, and performer. In addition to these similarities, Kaplan and Weinzweig also share a Jewish heritage, which has resulted in numerous works that are influenced by this heritage. Following a brief comparison of their biographies and compositional style, this paper considers two musical works by each of Weinzweig and Kaplan, contrasting their expression of the Jewish-Canadian heritage.

First is a comparison of two vocal works: Weinzweig’s Dance of Masada (1951) is written for low voice and piano; the text, by Itzchak Landan, is in both Hebrew and English. This musical reflection on an ancient fortification will be contrasted with Kaplan’s Two Songs from Hebrew Scriptures (1980). This work is also for voice and piano, with Hebrew texts from the Shabbat liturgy. Second is a comparison of two instrumental works: Weinzweig’s Sonata “Israel” for Cello and Piano (1949) integrates an ancient Yemenite melody with his emerging serialist interests. Kaplan’s Three Sketches for Israel (1973) is much more tonal and exhibits a strong influence from Klezmer music.