George Zukerman | The Canadian Encyclopedia


George Zukerman

George (Benedict) Zukerman. Bassoonist, impresario, b London, of US parents, 22 Feb 1927, naturalized Canadian 1967; MA (Queen's, New York) 1949.

Zukerman, George

George (Benedict) Zukerman. Bassoonist, impresario, b London, of US parents, 22 Feb 1927, naturalized Canadian 1967; MA (Queen's, New York) 1949. The son of a New York newspaper correspondent based in London, Zukerman studied at New York's High School of Music and Art and, before and after World War II service in the US navy, at Queen's College. He also studied privately with Leonard Sharrow, the principal bassoon of the NBC SO. After a tour as a member of the St Louis Sinfonietta in 1949, he joined the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for a season, returning in 1953 as principal bassoon after two seasons as associate principal of the Israel Philharmonic. He founded the Cassenti Players in 1954 and became principal bassoon of the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra and established Overture Concerts in 1955. He relinquished his position with the Vancouver SO in 1963 in order to concentrate on a solo career, which soon led to his recognition as one of the world's foremost bassoonists and to the bassoon's increased popularity as a solo instrument in Canada. He began annual tours of Europe in 1964 and on each of them searched for unpublished bassoon concertos. He has located about 150 works, including a Concerto in F Major mis-attributed to Mozart, a Conzertstück by Franz Berwald, an alternative version of a Concerto in F by Hummel, and six quintets by Brunetti (the latter found in the Madrid Palace Library under the eye of Spanish soldiers assigned to guard the treasures as he searched). His quest for lost works and his special affinity for the works of Mozart were combined with the Mozart bicentennial celebrations when Zukerman toured 1990-1 with a narrated concert (soloists and an orchestra of 16 players) titled The Great Mozart Hunt.

In 1969, on his first world tour, Zukerman became the first foreign bassoonist to be invited to perform as soloist in the USSR; he later had the same distinction in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and (in 1989) China. He performed as well in Port Villa and New Caledonia in 1972 and made his second world tour in 1976. He toured the USSR, South Africa and Australia in the spring of 1978. By 1990 Zukerman had made 26 European tours (including 7 visits to the USSR), 5 visits to New Zealand, and 3 tours of Australia. In all of his trips abroad and in Canada he has visited small centres as well as major cities. In Canada he has appeared repeatedly in solo recitals and with many symphony orchestras and has given lecture-demonstrations for schools, universities, and music clubs. Many Canadian composers have written for Zukerman, including Murray Adaskin, Jean Coulthard, Theo Goldberg, Jacques Hétu, Arthur Polson, Robert Turner, John Weinzweig, and Elliot Weisgarber. He has played their works frequently, eg, he performed Weisgarber's Thoughts on an Ancient Japanese Melody 189 times 1979-90.

Zukerman has focused particularly on 18th- and 19th-century repertoire, though not to the exclusion of contemporary works, and he has demonstrated that the bassoon is a viable and enchanting solo instrument. As an impresario he has made a substantial contribution to musical activity in Canada. In 1990 he continued as president of Overture Concerts and executive director of the Celebrity Concerts Society.

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