Meeting Murray Adaskin

Growing up in a Jewish and Latvian household, Murray Adaskin was taught from a very early age to strive for excellence and persevere towards his passions. As a young man, Adaskin showed promise on the violin, and studied with Alexander Chuhaldin at the Toronto Conservatory of Music.

Using his talents to provide music for silent film presentations in Toronto, Adaskin dedicated himself to his work with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1923 to 1936.

Two years after leaving the TSO, Adaskin played with the Royal York Hotel trio and continued to serve as a member of the group until 1952. Six years into playing with the Royal York Hotel Trio, Adaskin pushed himself to pursue education as a composer. He studied for seven years with John Weinzweig, Charles Jones, and Darius Milhaud of the influential French composer group known as “Les Six”. Particularly in Adaskin’s early compositional works, Igor Stravinsky was a major inspiration.

Attending the Music Academy of the West in 1950, Adaskin began his tenure as head of the Department of Music at the University of Saskatchewan in 1952 and remained in that position until 1966. He played an instrumental role in bringing the Amati Instruments to the University.

He then became the Composer-in-Residence until 1972. This was the first position of its type ever created at a Canadian university. His training as a violinist imbued his sense of melody with an abstract feel, and through his music one can feel the presence of landscapes, birdsongs and different local surrounding sounds.

During his time in Saskatoon, Adaskin served as the Music Director of the SSO from 1957 to 1961. His time with the SSO further cemented the orchestra during its artistic growth, and continued the organization’s passion for new music.

It was only after his decorated career as a musician and educator came to close that Adaskin fully committed himself to composing music. More than half of his output of 130 compositions were penned after his retirement to Victoria in 1972. In December of 1980, Adaskin was awarded the Order of Canada, and he was invested as an Officer of the Order of Canada the following year.

Despite losing his wife (the soprano Frances James) in 1988, Adaskin found love again with Dorothea Larsen, who was instrumental in helping him to record his final compositions: “Divertimento No.9” for string trio (1998), “Finki, Where Are You?” for 2 violas (2000) and “Musica Victoria” (2000).

Having lived a life rich in musical pursuits and achievements, one that spanned most of the 20th century, the renowned composer passed away surrounded by family at 96.

As he moved westward across the Prairies to his final resting place in British Columbia, Murray Adaskin left a legacy of musical passion whose vibrancy continues to burn bright at our University and in the hearts of all he taught.

We’re thrilled to feature Murray Adaskin’s Rondino for Nine Instruments as part of our concert Paris of the Prairies.

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