Composer John Weinzweig has a good memory. “In 1947, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed my Divertimento No. 1 for Flute and Strings,” he recalls, “and a newspaper music critic said, ‘These young composers shouldn’t subject the public to this awful music, they should try it out on their dogs first.’ But I had no dog.” Instead, the following year Weinzweig and the Canadian Music Council submitted the same work to the cultural arm of the London Olympiad and it won a silver for chamber music.
Weinzweig was born in Toronto in 1913— and has been composing since he was 16. He studied music at the University of Toronto, was an instructor in the air force band
division during the war, wrote scores for CBC Radio and the NFB, was a professor at U of T—and became one of Canada’s premier orchestral composers.
On March 23, Toronto’s New Music Concerts will celebrate his 90th birthday with a performance at Glenn Gould Studios, featuring a new work by Weinzweig. Prologue to a Tango is for four violins and a female voice—Jean Stilwell will perform the debut. “The scene is a dance hall in a town in Latin America,” says Weinzweig. “The singer’s very sad and then she hears the tango music and becomes exhilarated. A singer like Stilwell, with an operatic background, can create these kind of emotions.” And, at 90 years of age, so can Weinzweig.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.