John Weinzweig, 1913-2006

On Thursday, August 24, we lost our “Dean of Canadian Composers”, as John Weinzweig was fondly called. Weinzweig was the first person in this country to pursue classical music composition as a career, and although there were many obstacles to overcome along the way, he successfully achieved his goal. His efforts, along with his teaching and his tireless advocacy for Canadian music, created an environment in Canada that allowed a whole new generation of Canadian composers to flourish. There are now close to 600 Associate Composers of the Canadian Music Centre, and few of those who studied here could say that they haven’t been influenced by Weinzweig in one way or another.

Weinzweig composed two works of note for trombone: “Riffs II” for solo trombone, written for Al Kay in 1991, and “Divertimento No. 5” (1961) for solo trumpet, solo trombone and wind symphony. Visit my List of Canadian Compositions for Trombone for more details. I performed “Riffs II” a number of years ago in London, Ontario in a recital which Weinzweig attended, and at which his wife Helen gave a reading from her new book. It was a great pleasure to meet this wonderful couple, and a real thrill for me to perform John’s work in his presence.

I am sure there will be many performances of his works in the coming future, as people pay tribute to this great man. I hope that musicians and concert-goers alike will recognize the enormous contribution he made to music in Canada.

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