McGill Chamber Orchestra/Orchestre de chambre McGill | The Canadian Encyclopedia


McGill Chamber Orchestra/Orchestre de chambre McGill

McGill Chamber Orchestra/Orchestre de chambre McGill. A Montreal chamber orchestra founded by Alexander Brott, the McGill Chamber Orchestra began as an outgrowth of concerts given by the McGill String Quartet.

McGill Chamber Orchestra/Orchestre de chambre McGill

McGill Chamber Orchestra/Orchestre de chambre McGill. A Montreal chamber orchestra founded by Alexander Brott, the McGill Chamber Orchestra began as an outgrowth of concerts given by the McGill String Quartet. During the 1945-6 season Alexander Brott assembled a group of professional instrumentalists and presented Bach's six Brandenburg Concertos at the Ermitage in two concerts (26 October and 15 March) under the auspices of the Montreal Festivals. Under the same sponsorship the 12 Handel Concerti grossi were presented during the 1946-7 season in four concerts. In 1947 the McGill Chamber Music Society/Société de musique de chambre McGill was founded to sponsor the McGill String Quartet's concerts, and two or three chamber orchestra concerts were included among them. Gradually the orchestra concerts increased in number and the quartet's concerts decreased. When the quartet ceased its activities in 1953, the name McGill Chamber Orchestra was adopted to identify the new orchestra of some 15 string players. The ensemble's concerts were given first at the Ermitage, then 1949-51 in Moyse Hall, 1951-66 at Redpath Hall, 1966-7 at the Mount Royal Hotel, 1967-8 in the Maisonneuve Theatre at Place des Arts (a double series of six concerts), 1968-9 at the Port-Royal Theatre, and thereafter in the Maisonneuve Theatre, and at McGill's Pollack Hall (except for larger affairs when the Maisonneuve Theatre is still used). Beginning in 1967, the McGill Chamber Orchestra also presented an annual gala concert at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Starting in the 1989-90 season, Alexander Brott's son Boris Brott was associate conductor. In 2000, Brott senior handed the leadership over to Boris Brott but continued to conduct individual works occasionally.

The McGill Chamber Orchestra has a core of 15 string instruments, with added woodwinds, brass, and percussion as required. Concertmasters have included Arthur Garami 1956-9, Yaëla Hertz and Martin Foster. The Brotts have presented programs ranging from Baroque to contemporary. The many premieres have included several of Alexander Brott's compositions and a number of works commissioned by the Samuel Lapitsky Foundation. Among other Canadian composers whose works the orchestra has performed are Victor Davies, Allan Gilliland, Alexina Louie, Pierre Mercure, William Rowson, and Healey Willan.

Concerts; Guest Soloists

Besides its customary eight Monday evening concerts, the orchestra has given free concerts at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and at Christ Church Cathedral, and in 1967 it began presenting gala annual concerts at Notre-Dame Church with noted soloists including Peter Pears, Henryk Szeryng, and Yehudi Menuhin. In 1976 the orchestra presented four special concerts devoted to works of the last two centuries inspired by the Olympic Games. The concerts were based on research by Walter Kunstler; the works were transcribed and orchestrated by Alexander Brott and included Antonio Sacchini's complete opera Olimpiade.

The orchestra has presented numerous Canadian and foreign soloists. These have included Victoria de los Angeles, Paul Badura-Skoda, Colette Boky, Victor Bouchard and Renée Morisset, John Boyden, Julian Bream, Denis Brott, Canadian Brass, Angèle Dubeau, Janina Fialkowska, Ida Haendel, Marek Jablonski, Gary Karr, Anton Kuerti, Alexander Lagoya, Jens Lindemann, Yo-Yo Ma, John Newmark, David and Igor Oistrakh, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Mstislav Rostropovitch, Gérard Souzay, Janos Starker, Barry Tuckwell, and Rosalyn Tureck. Among the major works performed have been Leonard Isaacs' instrumentation of Bach's Art of Fugue (1954, and again in 1979) and Igor Markevitch's version of Bach's Musical Offering (1958). In 2006, in co-operation with McGill University's Opera Department, the orchestra presented Joseph Quesnel's Colas et Colinette in a concert version.

The concerts from the 1990s-2000s alone demonstrate a remarkable variety of content, and some have been programmed to honour specific occasions. A memorial concert 15 Sep 2003 paid homage to the victims of the 11 Sep 2001 terrorist attacks. On 14 Mar 2005, Alexander Brott was honoured at a 90th birthday concert; and since 2007, the Alexander Brott Memorial Concert has become an annual event held in February or March. Another annual concert is the presentation of Handel's Messiah, usually held at Christ Church Cathedral in late November or early December.

Grants; Tours

The orchestra has received financial assistance from the Canada Council, the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec, and the Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal. Within Canada it has toured as far as the Yukon. Foreign tours were made to the USSR (1966); the USA (1959, 1967); Switzerland and France (1973); Mexico (1974); Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary (1978); South America (1981); Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong (1987); and Belgium, and the Bermuda Festival (1989). The News of Mexico City (18 May 1974) described a concert the orchestra gave in Mexico City: "The program containing works by Corelli, Mercure, and Bartók showed Alexander Brott's impeccable stylistic sense. The sixteen men and women are extremely competent and even virtuoso musicians, capable not only of pinpoint precision in ensemble playing, but also of brilliance in solo parts."


Lotte Brott managed publicity and fund-raising until her death. Presidents or chairpersons have been Mrs H. Mortimer Jaquays 1947-9, Edna Marie Hawkin 1949-59, Mrs Lawrence Weir Davis 1959-67, Tania Plaw 1967-2000, Marc Garneau 2001-5, Jean-Pierre Ouellet, David Culver, and Hans P. Black (2007- ).


J.C. Bach Sinfonietta No. 1 - Bach Sinfonia No. 3; Concerto in C for 2 pianos. Morton, Masters pfs. Ca 1975. CBC SM-290

Benda - Bach - Roussel. Rampal fl. 1963. Pirouette JAS-19012/Everest 3194-7

Boyce - Chevalier de Saint-Georges - Rameau. Y. Hertz violin, Kernerman violin. 1973. CBC SM-258

A. Brott Arabesque - Freedman Images. Nelsova violoncello. 1963. RCI 187/(Brott) 7-ACM 20/(Freedman) 6-ACM 8

A. Brott Circle, Triangle, 4 Squares - Vallerand Cordes en mouvement. (1967). RCI 216/RCA CCS-1010/(Brott) 7-ACM 20/(Vallerand) 3-ACM 19

A. Brott Profundum praedictum - Glick Sinfonia Concertante - Pépin Monade I. Karr double-bass. Ca 1966. RCA LSC-3128/(Brott) Sel CC-15-088/(Glick) 4-ACM 34 (CD)/ (Pépin) CRI SD-317

A. Brott Sept for Seven. D. McGill narrator. Ca 1956. RCI 131

A. Brott Songs of Contemplation - Mercure Divertissement. G. Gabora soprano. Ca 1967. CBC SM-6

A. Brott Three Astral Visions. 1963. RCI 188/7-ACM 20

Works by Alexander Brott. McGill Chamber Orchestra. Analekta ANC 2 9801

Corelli Concerto grosso, Opus 6, No. 1 - Mozart Serenata Notturna K239; Adagio and fugue K546. 1968. CBC SM-58

Franck, C. Violin Sonata; Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4. McGill Chamber Orchestra; Alexander Brott; Ida Haendel violin; Ronald Turini piano. 2002. Doremi DRM 7803

Haydn Concerto in F for violin and harpsichord - Mozart Divertimento in D K136. Y. Hertz violin, Gilbert harpsichord. Ca 1967. CBC SM-18

Haydn Symphonies No. 44 and 49. 1969. CBC SM-89/A of D SDD-2160

Schubert - Mozart - Beethoven - A. Brott Seven Minuets, Six Canons. 1973. CBC SM-236/(Beethoven-Brott) 7-ACM 20

Telemann Suite in A for flute and strings; Don Quichotte. Rampal fl. 1963. Baroque CBC-2852/Pirouette JAS-19016/7-Everest 3194-7

See also Discographies for Jean Carignan; Julie Holtzman; Joseph Macerollo.

Further Reading