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Interview: Oskar Morawetz and Timothy Findley

Interview: Oskar Morawetz and Timothy Findley


In this interview Oskar Morawetz speaks of composing his Piano Concerto No.1 for a competition held by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. During his conversation with interviewer Timothy Findley, Morwetz discusses the process of writing the piece, its eventual performances in Montreal (conducted by Zubin Mehta), New York (at Carnegie Hall) and Minneapolis, and its two broadcast recordings (CBC & BBC). This interview is particularly interesting considering the significance of the composer, the work, and the interviewer himself. Timothy Findley later became one of Canada's most influential and popular novelists and playwrights.

INTERVIEWEE Oskar Morawetz

Oskar Morawetz was born in Czechoslovakia in 1917. He studied piano and theory in Prague and following the Nazi takeover of his country in 1938, in Vienna and Paris. At the age of 19 he was recommended by George Szell for the assistant conductor's post with the Prague Opera. In 1940 he left Europe for Canada and since that time he established himself as one of Canada's leading and most frequently performed composers.

His orchestral compositions have won many awards and have been programmed worldwide by nearly 120 orchestras and by such conductors as Zubin Mehta, Seiji Ozawa, Rafael Kubelik, Kurt Masur, Gunther Herbig, Sir Andrew Davis, Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Charles Mackerras, and many prominent Canadian conductors. Many internationally acclaimed soloists have performed and recorded his compositions including Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Glenn Gould, Anton Kuerti, Jon Vickers, Maureen Forrester, Victor Braun, Judith Forst, Ben Heppner, and many principal wind players of the best orchestras in the U.S.A. and Canada who have commissioned and premièred his works.

His style absorbs several trends of the 20th century but was never attached to serial music or avant-garde styles such as chance or electronic music. Musicologists and critics usually stress the melodic and rhythmic vitality of his music, sincerity and depth of expression, his sense for building up powerful, dramatic climaxes, and his unusually colourful and imaginative orchestration.

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