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Mapping Canada's Music

Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann

By Helmut Kallmann
Edited by John Beckwith & Robin Elliott
Subjects Music
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Hardcover : 9781554588916, 260 pages, March 2013
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781554588930, 260 pages, May 2013


Excerpt from Mapping Canada's Music: Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann edited by John Beckwith and Robin Elliott

From the Chapter 15: Mapping Canada's Music: A Life Task

The Impetus

All I wanted was to gain more insight into Beethoven's personality. I had plowed my way through three volumes of his letters in Prelinger's edition1 and was now, in the summer of 1948, reading through the second appendix. There, underneath a letter to the composer from a visitor to Vienna, it stared at me in clear print,”Theodor Molt, music teacher in Quebec, North America” [“Musiklehrer in Quebec in Nord Amerika”], December 1825.

“A music teacher in Quebec in 1825, but that's impossible! ” was my immediate reaction. I thought the eldest of the teachers I saw around the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, men born in the 1870s, surely belonged to the first or, at most, second generation of music teachers in this new country. 2 Yet here was someone by the name of Molt who taught in Quebec City a century earlier!

What was the story behind this man? Other Beethoven literature provided details about Molt's visit to the composer, and of these I will mention only that Molt, who had first settled in Quebec in 1822, returned there in 1826 with a Beethoven manuscript in his hands, the canon “Freu' Dich des Lebens,” WoO 195. Rather, what piqued my curiosity was the Canadian aspect of the episode. Although I had arrived in Canada in 1940 as one of some 2, 000 interned refugees from Germany and Austria, our camps were enclaves of European culture, for three years linked to Canadian musical life only by radio broadcasts of the Montreal and Toronto orchestras and recorded music programs. We knew little about Canada's history.

By the time I entered the University of Toronto in 1946 I had gathered my first impressions about current musical life. Although a strong wartime morale booster, music making had been downsized, but now that the nation had returned to civilian life it was raring to emerge stronger than ever. I heard a lot about music's future. Thus, in Quebec a series of state conservatories expanded or opened, in Toronto plans matured for a senior school with master teachers, a professional opera school, and a new course for future school music teachers. Composition teachers versed in contemporary idioms at last assumed university positions. Professionalism seemed just to arrive. Indeed there was a flurry, if not an explosion, of talent and activity. And what about the past? One didn't talk about that. In my three years of music history classes under three different professors, Canadian musicians, past or present, were never subjects of discussion or even mention. Anything of importance, as though by definition, had to take place in Europe or the United States. Music in Canada “had no past” apart from folksong, and in any case one was too busy to celebrate old heroes. True, the Hart House String Quartet of Toronto, and the Montreal Opera Company were memories of older music lovers; true, a Kathleen Parlow or a Rodolphe Plamondon had won acclaim abroad, but there had been a long succession of shipwrecked orchestral and operatic enterprises—backwoods enterprises typically led by organists who found themselves suddenly in front of an orchestra and who hated what little contemporary music they knew. Or so one was told.

Till the end of the war, music was taught at some dozen universities with curricula (at least in Anglo-Canada) perpetuating the time-honoured British system emphasizing complex tonal harmony, fugue and orchestration, but not teaching research techniques, contemporary idioms or much else useful for entering the profession. Little wonder that many young composers resented the conservative academics and part-time composers whom they identified with the age of Elgar or Tchaikovsky, instead placing Schoenberg, Webern, Bartók and Stravinsky on their banner. As if to confirm this negative view of the Canadian past, the CBC’s epochal Catalogue of Canadian Composers (1947) with its generous coverage of living composers disregarded almost all those who had died.

Beside the music teacher of 1825 with Beethoven's manuscript in his hand, one other signpost made me suspicious of this negative view of Canada’s musical past. My Baedeker's Canada of 1907 contained a number of city maps that displayed an “Opera House” in a prominent location, those of Hamilton, Ottawa, Saint John, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg. 3 What cities, if any, had opera houses in 1948?

From the Chapter 17: At Home with the Kallmanns: A Schöneberg Family in the 1930s (1992/2001)

“Write him and he'll have to mend his ways”

It is early 1933. The grownups talk about very important matters. Serious, exciting matters. The Nazis have taken over the government. They plan evil. They lock up their opponents, they rule with orders and scaremongering, they are brutal and without mercy. Some people are sent to a camp (Sonnenburg I believe) where they are tormented and beaten. The greatest enemies of the Nazis are the communists, the objects of their fiercest hatred the Jews. But as organizers of parades and festivities—in this they are great, as even their opponents admit. “If Hitler is such a bad person, then write him a letter and explain to him how bad he is. Then he will have to mend his ways,” I as a ten-year-old advise my parents. Soon there is a day of boycott during which Jewish lawyers may not enter the law courts. “But, papa, if you simply walk up the steps to the law court, how can anyone stop you?”


The Notary Sign Is Stolen

One morning in 1933 or 1934 one of us notices that my father's notary sign with the Prussian eagle is missing from the railing in the front garden. Overnight it has been unscrewed and stolen.


Herr Engwicht Disappears

A portent of the dark future is a rather disquieting phone call from Mr. Engwicht, who up to this point in 1933 has given my father more work than any of his other clients. It is late evening and he calls from one of the big hotels. He has met some foreigners, possibly Dutch people, and they work out some grand business plan. Something very important and urgent. My father advises them lengthily over the phone. Engwicht and his people will either call back or come to us around midnight. My father waits for a long time. No further phone call. Did Engwicht explain later on? Was he going to mock my father, or did the contract come to naught? I know only that something was fishy.


The Law Practice Goes Under

Other Jewish lawyers are soon forbidden to practise; only those who fought at the front line in the First World War and those with many years of practice are allowed to continue in a limited way. 6 My father belongs to the latter, though he was not a combatant in the war. Now he represents only Jewish clients. The office secretary, Fräulein Fohgrub, stays another year or two; later we children sometimes have to help (e. g. , typing legal documents or expediting letters). Day after day the government law gazette prints new laws, laws which have simply been proclaimed without parliamentary debate, laws that trample on procedure and decency. My father is incensed. Jewish lawyers now form “cartels,” groups of four who meet on occasion and discuss events. Eventually my father is no longer allowed to plead before a judge, can only advise his clients. Then, about 1937 or 1938 that too stops. 7 For him, there is no other means of earning money, as he has now turned sixty-five.

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Mapping Canada's Music: Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann edited by John Beckwith and Robin Elliott

List of Illustrations

Preface and Acknowledgements

Helmut Kallmann: A Brief Biography

Helmut Kallmann and Canadian Music

Selected Writings of Helmut Kallmann (*indicates material which has not been previously published)

1 * Studying Music at a Canadian University, 1946–1949 (1949)

2 Canadian Music as a Field for Research (1950)

3 The New Grove's: Disappointment to Canada (1955)

4 Introduction, from A History of Music in Canada 1534–1914 (1960)

5 * Joseph Quesnel's Colas et Colinette (1963)

6 Music Library Association Digs Up Our Musical Past (1966)

7 James Paton Clarke, Canada's First Mus. Bac. (1970)

8 The Music Division of the National Library: The First Five Years (1975)

9 The Canadian League of Composers in the 1950s: The Heroic Years (1984)

10 The Making of a One-Country Music Encyclopedia: An Essay after an Encyclopedia (1994)

11 Music in the Internment Camps and after World War II: John Newmark's Start on a Brilliant Canadian Career (1995)

12 * Franz Schubert in Canada: A Historical Survey of Performance, Appreciation, and Research (1996)

13 Taking Stock of Canada's Composers from the 1920s to the Catalogue of Canadian Composers (1952) (1996)

14 * A Selection of Correspondence (1949/1966/1992)

15 Mapping Canada's Music: A Life's Task (1997)

16 The Matter of Identity (2001)

17 * At Home with the Kallmanns: A Schöneberg Family in the 1930s (1992/2001)

List of Helmut Kallmanns Writings



Mapping Canada’s Music is a selection of writings by the late Canadian music librarian and historian Helmut Kallmann (1922–2012). Most of the essays deal with aspects of Canadian music, but some are also autobiographical, including one written during retirement in which Kallmann recalls growing up in a middle-class Jewish family in 1930s Berlin under the spectre of Nazism.

Of the seventeen selected writings by Kallmann, five have never before been published; many of the others are from difficult-to-locate sources. They include critical and research essays, reports, reflections, and memoirs. Each chapter is prefaced with an introduction by the editors. Two initial chapters offer a biography of Kallmann and an assessment of his contributions to Canadian music.

The variety, breadth, and scope of these writings confirm Kallmann’s pioneering role in Canadian music research and the importance of his legacy to the cultural life of his adopted country. In the current climate of cuts to archival collections and services, the publication of these essays by and about a pre-eminent collector and historian serves as a timely reminder of the importance of cultural memory.


  • Winner, Carol June Bradley Award for Historical Research in Music Librarianship (Music Library Association) 2013


``Elliott and Beckwith have collected an insightful guidebook, invaluable to anyone with an interest in this country's art music. There is a deeply human side to this book as well, one that transcends Kallmann's specific personal and professional preoccupations and places this quiet, old soul at the centre of the greatest horrors of the 20th century. ... But Kallmann's enduring legacy is in helping create the infrastructure we all need to know who Canadian composers are, what they have written, who performed these works, and how all of this fits into a larger performing-arts context. Beckwith and Elliott have sifted through Kallmann's essays and papers well and wisely to provide a multi-faceted appreciation of someone never seen in a spotlight. ''

- John Terauds, Musical Toronto, August 2013

``Kallmann's methodology as a historican is an interesting mix of old and new approaches. ... He realized early on . .. that in the absence of ‘creative giants’ like Bach or Mozart, Canadian music history would be focused primarily on social and cultural aspects of musical activity, and less on ‘artistic aspects’ (p. 44). He did not bemoan this fact (as some might have during this era) but embraced it, continually asking what meaning music held for Canadians over the centuries rather than searching for Canada's Beethoven. ... In coediting the EMC, he insisted that classical, popular, and folk traditions all be included. Given the pioneering role Kallmann played, these methodological decisions had an enormous effect on the shape and scope of the field; the ‘map’ of Canada's musical past that he created had a place for the musical activities of just about everyone. ... If it was his goal to lay foundations for future scholars, he was undoubtedly successful. In the first place, his own writing (the full list of his writings given at the end of the book is impressively vast and diverse) showed us that Canadian music history research was possible and whetted our appetites to learn more. Indeed, one reason for those in the field to read this collection is to stimulate ideas for new paths of research. But more profoundly, because of his involvement in the huge pioneering projects described above (the History, the EMC, and his work as archivist at the National Library in particualar) it is now difficult to explore a topic in Canadian music history without using a source that has been touched (directly or indirectly) by Kallmann's initial efforts. ... This book . .. is essential reading for those interested in Canadian music history but will also appeal to those with an interest in music librarianship, historiography, North American colonial and cultural history, and biography. ... The overall picture of a new field being born in the hands of a man with a fascinating life story will have wide appeal. ''

- Benita Wolters-Fredlund, Notes (Music Library Association), Volume 70, No. 2, December 2013

``This new book Mapping Canada's Music, is perhaps the best possible tribute to Kallmann. ... The Wilfrid Laurier University Press deserves much praise for taking on this very worthy project. ... This relatively small university press has rapidly carved out a niche with a number of titles on music in postwar Canada, among them In Search of Alberto Guerrero (2006), Music Traditions, Cultures, and Contexts (2010), Weinzweig (2011), and Beckwith's memoirs, Unheard Of (2012). The WLU Press has just issued Out of Time (2013), the biography of another Nazi-era refugee, the conductor, Georg Tintner. These twenty-first century assessments of recent history come not a moment too soon and have much to say about music and imagination in twentieth-century Canada. Both Centre and Periphery, Roots and Exile and Mapping Canada's Music tell the stories of individuals uprooted and forced to find new beginnings in a country that was accepting of their talents and that was enriched by their contributions. ''

- Brian C. Thompson, Fontes Artis Musicae, 61/1

``All of the essays address various aspects of Canadian music, making them significant for the scholar. Particularly useful are the half- to full-page introductions by the editors that contextualize each essay. ... This book is far more than a collection of essays. The various chapters provide perspectives on a vast range of topics by Canada's seminal music historian. At the same time, the book vividly reinforces what is both unique and vital about Canada's musical culture. ''

- Edward Jurkowski, Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review, 41, no. 3, November 2013