Weinzweig, John

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WEINZWEIG, JOHN (Jacob ; 1913–2006), Canadian composer and teacher. Born in Toronto to Polish immigrant parents, Weinzweig first studied music at the Workman's Circle Peretz School, at Toronto high schools, and privately. In 1934–37 he studied with Healey Willan at the University of Toronto, where he founded and conducted the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra. At the invitation of Howard Hanson, he completed a M.Mus. (1938) in composition at the Eastman School of Music. Weinzweig's Suite for Piano (1939) contains Canada's first 12-tone writing.

Except for a 1943–45 stint in the rcaf, Weinzweig taught at the Toronto Conservatory from 1938 to 1960. Having composed music for four National Film Board movies (1941–45) and for about 100 cbc Radio dramas (1941–51), he taught composition and orchestration at the University of Toronto in 1952–78. Among his many renowned students were Murray Adaskin, Harry Freedman, Srul Irving Glick, and Brian Cherney.

Among his concert works are Divertimento No. 1 (1946) for flute and orchestra, which won the Silver Medal at the 1948 Arts Olympiad; the Cello Sonata "Israel" (1949); Dance of the Massadah (1951) for baritone and piano, based on Yiẓḥak *Lamdan poems and commissioned by the Canadian Jewish Congress; Am Yisrael Chai! (1952) for chorus, based on Weinzweig's translation of Malke *Lee's text; Wine of Peace (1957) for soprano and orchestra, dedicated to "the United Nations, where the dreams of mankind for peace on earth become a reality"; Dummiyah/Silence (1969) for orchestra, which he described as a reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust; and the choral "Prisoner of Conscience" (1986) dedicated to Amnesty International.

Weinzweig played a central role in founding both the Canadian League of Composers (1951) and the Canadian Music Centre (1959). In 1967, he was awarded the B'nai Israel Beth David Synagogue Scroll of Honour for outstanding contributions to Canadian culture. Other accolades include honorary doctorates from the Universities of Ottawa (1969) and Toronto (1982), an appointment as Officer of the Order of Canada (1974) and Member of the Order of Ontario (1988). A recipient of the Canadian Music Council Medal in 1978, Weinzweig was designated "President Emeritus" by the Canadian League of Composers in 1981. He is also the first composer to receive the Canada Council's Molson Prize (1981) and the Roy Thomson Hall Award (1991). Subsequently Weinzweig received the Toronto Arts Award for Music (1998) and the socan (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers) Lifetime Achievement Award (2004). He married the fiction writer Helen *Weinzweig.


E. Keillor, E. John Weinzweig and His Music: The Radical Romantic of Canada (1994).

[Jay Rahn (2nd ed.)]