John Weinzweig

(b. 11 March 1913, Toronto, Ontario – d. 24 August 2006, Toronto, Ontario).

Canadian composer of mostly stage, orchestral, chamber, choral, vocal, and piano works that have been performed throughout the world.

Prof. Weinzweig studied mandolin at the Workman's Circle Peretz School and began private studies in piano at age fourteen. He studied at Harbord Collegiate Institute in Toronto in the early 1930s, where he played double bass, mandolin and sousaphone in the school orchestra. He studied counterpoint and fugue with Healey Willan, harmony with Leo Smith and orchestration with Sir Ernest MacMillan at the University of Toronto from 1934–37, where he earned his BMus, and studied conducting privately with Reginald Stewart during this time. He then studied composition with Bernard Rogers at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York in 1937–38, where he earned his MMus. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ottawa in 1969 and the Doctor of Laws honoris causa from the University of Toronto in 1982.

Among his honours were the Silver Medal in chamber music at the Olympic Games in London (1948, for Divertimento No. 1), the Scroll of Honour from B'nai Israel Beth David Synagogue (1967), the Canada Council Senior Arts Award (1968, 1975), the Victor M. Lynch-Staunton Award from the Canada Council for the Arts (1975), the Canadian Music Council Medal (1978), the Molson Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts (1981), the Order of Ontario (1988), the Roy Thomson Hall Award (1991), and the Golden Jubilee Medal (2002). In addition, he served as an Officer of the Order of Canada from 1974–2006, an honorary member of the Alberta Composers Association from 1977–2006, an honorary member of the American Harp Society from 1984–2006, and a life member of the Toronto Musicians Association from 1984–2006. He is the subject of the book John Weinzweig and His MusicThe Radical Romantic of Canada by Elaine Keillor (1994, Scarecrow Press).

He was also active in other positions. He founded the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1934 and served as its conductor from 1934–37. He co-founded with many colleagues and students the Canadian League of Composers in 1951 and served as its president from 1951–57 and from 1959–63 and served as its president emeritus from 1981–2006. He also helped to found the Canadian Music Centre in 1959 and served as president of the Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada from 1973–75. His collected articles appear in the books John WeinzweigHis Words and His Music (1986, Poole Hall Press) and Sounds and Reflections (1990, Poole Hall Press).

He taught composition, ear training, music theory, and orchestration at The Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto from 1939–43 and 1945–54. He worked as an instructor of the Royal Canadian Air Force Central Band from 1943–45. He then taught composition at the University of Toronto from 1952–78, where he was professor emeritus from 1978–2006.

In addition to the works listed below, he composed hundreds of scores for films, radio, theatre, and TV.





Red Ear of Corn (ballet in 2 acts, choreography by Boris Volkoff), small orchestra, 1948–49

Around the Stage in 25 Minutes during which a variety of instruments are struck (music-theatre work), moving percussion, 1970

Trialogue (music-theatre work, text by the composer), soprano, flute, piano, 1971 (also concert version of one section, My Dear Etcetera, incorporated into Private Collection)

Impromptus (music-theatre work), piano, 1973

Prime-Time (music-theatre work, text by the composer), soprano, baritone, flute, bass clarinet, 1991

Journey out of Night (music-theatre work, text by the composer), mezzo-soprano, piano, 1994

Le Rendez-Vous (music-theatre work, text by the composer), soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, piano, 1995

Parodies and Travesties (music-theatre work, text by the composer), soprano, mezzo-soprano, piano, 1995

Walking-Talking (music-theatre work, text by the composer), soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, piano, 1996


Rhapsody, 1941, revised 2003–04

Interlude in an Artist's Life, string orchestra, 1943

Our Canada (Music for Radio No. 1), 1943

Band-Hut Sketches, symphonic band, 1944

Divertimento No. 1, flute, string orchestra, 1945–46

Edge of the World (Music for Radio No. 2), 1946

Divertimento No. 2, oboe, string orchestra, 1948

Round Dance, symphonic band, 1950 (also version for orchestra, 1950)

Concerto, violin, orchestra, 1951–54

Symphonic Ode, 1958

Divertimento No. 3, bassoon, string orchestra, 1960

Divertimento No. 5, trumpet (+ B-flat trumpet), trombone, symphonic band, 1961

Concerto, piano, orchestra, 1965–66

Concerto, harp, small orchestra, 1967

Divertimento No. 4, clarinet, string orchestra, 1968 (also version for clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass)

DummiyahSilence, 1969

Divertimento No. 6, alto saxophone, string orchestra, 1972

Divertimento No. 7, French horn, string orchestra, 1979

Divertimento No. 8, tuba, orchestra, 1980

Out of the Blues, symphonic band, 1981

Divertimento No. 9, large orchestra, 1982

Divertimento No. 10, piano, string orchestra, 1988

Divertimento No. 11, English horn, string orchestra, 1989

Jammin', 1990

Divertimento No. 12, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, string orchestra, 1998


String Quartet No. 1, 1937

Sonata for Violin and Piano, violin, piano, 1941

Fanfare, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1943

Intermissions, flute, oboe, 1943

String Quartet No. 2, 1946

Israel (sonata), cello, piano, 1949

String Quartet No. 3, 1962

Woodwind Quintet, flute, oboe, clarinet, French horn, bassoon, 1963–64

Quartet, 3 clarinets, bass clarinet, 1965

Divertimento No. 4, clarinet, 2 violins, viola, cello, double bass, 1968 (version of work for clarinet, string orchestra)

Riffs 1, flute, 1974

Contrasts, guitar, 1976

Pieces of Five, French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, 1976

Refrains, double bass, piano, 1977

18 Pieces for Guitar, guitar, 1980

Variations (on the theme 'All's well that ends well'), French horn, 2 trumpets, trombone, tuba, 1981

15 Pieces for Harp, harp, 1983

Conversations, 3 guitars, 1984

Cadenza, clarinet, 1986

Tango for Two, harp, 1986 (also version for piano)

Birthday Notes, flute, piano, 1987

HitlahavuthDance of the Masada, violin, piano, 1987 (version of vocal work)

Tremologue, viola, 1987

Riffs 2, trombone, 1991

Belaria, violin/viola/cello, 1992

Riffs 3, B-flat trumpet, 1992

Arctic Shadows, oboe, piano, 1993

Divertimento, French horn, piano, 1993

Swing out, bassoon, 1995

Interplay, piccolo, tuba, piano, 1998

Duo for Two Violins, 2 violins, 1999


To the Lands over Yonder (texts from traditional sources of the Inuit people), mixed chorus, 1945

Am Yisrael chai! – Israel Lives (text by Malka Lee), mixed chorus, piano, 1952

Hockey Night in Canada (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1985

Lonesome Satellite (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1985

Prisoner of Conscience (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1985

Shoppin' Blues (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1985

In the Arms of Morpheus (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1986

On Wings of Song (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1986

What's That? (text by the composer), mixed chorus, 1986


Of Time, Rain and the World (song-cycle, text by the composer), mezzo-soprano/baritone, piano, 1947

Hitlahavuth (text by Yitzhak Lamdan), baritone, piano, 1951 (also version for violin, piano)

Wine of Peace (text by the composer, after Pedro Calderón de la Barca, an anonymous source), soprano, large orchestra, 1957

Private Collection (song-cycle, text by the composer), soprano, piano, 1975 (incorporates concert version of My Dear Etcetera from Trialogue)

Prologue to a Tango (text by the composer), mezzo-soprano, 4 violins, 2002


Spasmodia, 1938

Suite No. 1, 1939

Melos, 1949

Swing a Fugue, 1949

Sonata, 1950

Suite No. 2, 1950

CanOn Stride, 1986

Tango for Two, 1986 (version of work for harp)

Micromotions, 1988

Three Pieces for Piano, 1989

Duologue, 2 pianos, 1990

Diversions, 1994

Netscapes, 2000

Seven Piano Duets, 2 pianos, 2000


Improvisation on an Indian Tune, 1942, revised 1980