Elliot Weisgarber | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Elliot Weisgarber

Weisgarber, Elliot. Composer, clarinetist, ethnomusicologist, b Pittsfield, Mass, 5 Dec 1919, naturalized Canadian 1973, d Vancouver 31 Dec 2001; B MUS (ESM, Rochester) 1942, M MUS (ESM, Rochester) 1943.

Weisgarber, Elliot

Weisgarber, Elliot. Composer, clarinetist, ethnomusicologist, b Pittsfield, Mass, 5 Dec 1919, naturalized Canadian 1973, d Vancouver 31 Dec 2001; B MUS (ESM, Rochester) 1942, M MUS (ESM, Rochester) 1943. He studied clarinet with Rosario Mazzeo (of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) and, in New York, with Gustave Langenus; at ESM he worked with R. Mont Arey, earning his performer's certificate. He also studied composition at the ESM and subsequently in Paris 1952-3 with Nadia Boulanger and in Los Angeles 1958-9 with Halsey Stevens. He taught at the Women's College of the University of North Carolina 1944-58 (also playing clarinet with various summer festival orchestras and many chamber music concerts in the US mid-south) and the University of California 1958-9 and began teaching at the University of British Columbia in 1960, retiring in 1984 but retaining his association as professor emeritus. He specialized in the teaching of composition and Asian music. His composition pupils included Michael Conway Baker, Neil Currie, David Keeble, and Claire Lawrence and Frederick Schipizky; among his clarinet pupils was Wes Foster, who became principal clarinet of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 1981.

On Canada Council grants Weisgarber studied Japanese music in Japan in 1966, 1967, and 1968-9 at the University of Otana and privately, becoming proficient on the shakuhachi, a traditional bamboo flute. In 1974 he toured Canada with the kotoist Miyoko Kobayashi. In 1974 he was guest speaker at the meeting of the Asian Composers' League in Kyoto, Japan, and on a second trip that year addressed the UNESCO/ISME seminar in Tokyo. In 1976 he was a guest lecturer and visiting composer at the National University of Teheran (Iran) and later that year was again a speaker for the Asian Composers' League, in Taiwan.

Weisgarber's compositional style is many-faceted, ranging from traditional works for orchestra and chamber ensemble (the latter reflecting his lifelong love of chamber music) to pieces which incorporate elements of Japanese folk music, as in Kyoto Landscapes for orchestra, Japanese Miscellany (1970) for piano, a series of chamber works for Japanese instruments, and the vocal works Ten Japanese Folk Songs and Songs of a Thousand Autumns. He set up the music publishing firm Elliot Weisgarber Associates in 1994 with his daughter, flutist Karen Suzanne Smithson, and remained active as a composer until his death. In Canada, his music has been featured at concerts of the West Coast Symphony, the 2002 Annual Festival of B.C. Composers, and elsewhere; in the USA, premieres have been performed in Carmel, California; Anchorage, Alaska; and Madison, Wisconsin.

He was a member of the International Clarinet Society, and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He also contributed to EMC. Several works by Weisgarber have been recorded by Hermissenda Recordings (Immanences, HR0214). As well, his Sonatina for piano, flute, and clarinet may be heard on Playing Tribute by the Aulos Trio (1998, CAM 9502 CanSona); and Night was included on the CD Harp of David by the Vancouver Chamber Choir and Purcell String Quartet with others (1990, CMC-CD 3790).

Selected Compositions

Sinfonia Pastorale. 1961. Sm orch. Ms

Kyoto Landscapes: Lyrical Evocations for Orchestra. 1970 (rev 1972). Ms

Illahee Chanties. 1971. Chamb orch. Ms

Musica serena. 1974. Sm orch. Ms

Netori: A Fantasie. 1974. Alto saxophone, orch. Ms

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. 1974, rev 1987. Ms

A Pacific Trilogy. 1974. Orch. Ms

Colloquies. 2000. Flute and Orchestra.

Also others


"The Honkyoku of the Kinko-Ryu: Some Principles of its Organization," Journal of the Society for Ethnomusicology, vol 12 no 3, Sep 1968

'Mayonnaise on the sashimi,' CanComp, 44, Nov 1969

'A composer explains his ''trans-cultural'' music,' CanComp, 88, Feb 1974


Sonata for Unaccompanied Violoncello. 1965. Ms

Epigrams. 1970, rev 1973. Fl, koto (piano). Ms. Opus One No. 46 (K. Weisgarber fl, Hoy piano)

Rokudan Henko-no-shirabe. 1971. 2 koto, 2 shamisen. 1971. Ms

Six Miniatures after Hokusai. 1972. Vn, piano. Ms

As We Stood Then, song cycle. 1975. Mezzo (bar), viola, piano. Ms

Fantasia a Tre. 1975. Vn, horn, piano. Ms

String Quartet. 1975. Ms

Sonata. 1980. Vc, piano. Ms

String Quartet No. 6. 1980. Ms

Thirty-two Concert Etudes. 1986. Cl. Ms

Quintet. 1988. Cl, string quartet. Ms

Sonata Piacevole. 1990. Cl, piano. Ms

Music in Memory of Andrei Sakharov. 1990. Fl, piano, viola, violoncello. Ms

Fantasia on Down Ampney (R. Vaughan Williams). 1996. Flute, organ

Several more chamber works, including 3 others for Japanese instruments

Choir and Voice

Num mortuis resurgent? cantata (Dunstan Massey). 1963 (rev 1973). SATB. Ms

Ren-ai to toki ni tsuite 'Of Love and Time' (Shakespeare, Japanese, Tsubouchi Shoyo). 1971. Sop, fl, oboe, string trio, harpsichord. Ms

Illusions of Mortality, song cycle. 1975. V, piano. Ms

Ten Japanese Folk Songs. 1981. Sop, piano. Ms

Night (Jeffers). 1973, rev 1982. Bar., SATB, string quartet (string orch). Ms. Centrediscs CMC-CD-3790 (Vancouver Chamber Choir)

Songs of a Thousand Autumns (Japanese). 1985. SATB, piano. Ms

Other works for choir including 'Love is a Sickness' and 'To Violets' recorded by the University Singers, J. Fankhauser conductor (1984, UBC unnumbered) and 'In Bedl'em' recorded by the Vancouver Bach Choir (VBC 001); and for voice, including 2 for voice and Japanese instr

Incidental music for TV and several radio documentaries; a few works for piano and one for concert band and harp

Further Reading