19th - Mid-20th Centuries
With the rise in popularity of the pianoforte during the 19th century the harpsichord fell into disuse. It began to make a comeback in the 1880s when Érard, Pleyel and Gaveau in Paris, Chickering in Boston, and Dolmetsch in England (and in Boston and Paris as consultant to Chickering and Gaveau) gradually altered its design for modern use. In Canada in 1912 a harpsichordist named Laura Walker won a scholarship (for studies in Berlin) from the Ladies' Morning Musical Club of Montreal. On 21 Jan 1926 the world-renowned Wanda Landowska made what appears to have been her Canadian debut in a concert sponsored by the Women's Musical Club of Toronto. Landowska returned to Toronto during the spring of 1943 to perform, for CBC broadcast, the modern premieres of five C.P.E. Bach keyboard concertos that had been discovered in Toronto.
In the autumn of 1931 the T. Eaton Co bought a two-manual, seven-pedal Pleyel harpsichord for Eaton Auditorium in Toronto. The instrument was inaugurated 2 Feb 1932 in a Canadian debut performance by Frances Duncan Barwick (b Kalamazoo, Mich, 30 Jan 1909, d Ottawa 19 Nov 1984), a pupil of Marguerite Delcourt in Paris and the Dolmetsches in England. Barwick purchased the Eaton Pleyel during the early 1940s and used it to introduce the harpsichord to audiences in Ottawa and Montreal. On 30 Jan 1945 she played Bach's Concerto in D Minor and Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 with the Little Symphony of Montreal. She was active in chamber music in Ottawa, her residence after 1939.
In 1938 Greta Kraus arrived in Toronto from Vienna and soon established a reputation as a soloist, chamber musician, accompanist, and teacher. The first to play harpsichord (rather than piano) continuo for the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's Bach performances during the 1940s, Kraus was for many years Canada's best-known and most active harpsichordist.
Canadian Harpsichord Scene 1950 - 2000s
During the second half of the 20th century the number of Canadian harpsichordists specializing in historical repertoire grew noticeably. Kenneth Gilbert, a former pupil of Ruggero Gerlin, after an initial career in Canada and the US where he played many recitals and initiated harpsichord classes at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal and McGill University, earned a reputation as a scholar and player of international renown, recording for international labels the complete harpsichord works of Bach, Rameau and Couperin, and editing the complete harpsichord works of Couperin, Rameau and other composers for the French publishers Heugel and Oiseau-Lyre. In addition to giving master-classes in every European country, he became the first Canadian to teach at the Paris Conservatoire and the Salzburg Mozarteum.
Denis Bédard, Hubert Bédard, Douglas Bodle, Hermel Bruneau, Glenn Gould (on occasion), John Grew, Martha Hagen, Kelsey and Rosabelle Jones, André Laberge, Bernard, Geneviève and Mireille Lagacé, Hugh McLean, Kenneth Meek, Lucien and Réjean Poirier, Denis Regnaud, Donald Thomson, Arnold Walter, Patrick Wedd, and Gerald Wheeler have been heard as soloists and in chamber groups. Bodle and Wedd both studied with Kraus. (In 1959 Bodle and Kraus performed a Bach Concerto for two harpsichords with the CBC Symphony Orchestra.) Regnaud and Bernard Lagacé were pupils of Isolde Ahlgrimm in Vienna. Bruneau studied and later taught at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Québec and in Chicoutimi, and toured for Jeunesses musicales of Canada (Youth and Music Canada). Joyce Redekop-Fink was a member 1963-70 of the Manitoba University Consort. Bradford Tracey made recordings, gave recitals in Canada, Europe, and the US, and performed on CBC radio.
1980s - 2005
Since the 1980s Canada has seen the birth of many outstanding early music ensembles, concert series and festivals. This phenomenon has provided performance opportunities at home for many Canadian harpsichordists. CBC radio and television broadcasts, and commercial recordings on labels such as Analekta and Atma, have earned Canadian harpsichordists international reputations and invitations to perform abroad. Interest in harpsichord playing is further fostered through organizations such as Early Music Vancouver and the Toronto Centre for Early Music as well as events such as the Bach International Harpsichord Festival (Festival international de clavecin Bach), which was held in Montreal in 1997 and 1999, and festivals. The active harpsichord scene in Canada has also attracted foreign harpsichordists, some of whom became Canadian residents.
Among harpsichordists of note who have played in Canada are Huguette Dreyfus, Albert Fuller, Igor Kipnis, Gustav Leonhardt, Françoise Petit, Daniel Pinkham, Fernando Valenti, Robert Veyron-Lacroix, Ton Koopman, Skip Sempé, Christophe Rousset, Olivier Baumont and Blandine Rannou. The respected performer and harpsichord scholar Colin Tilney settled in Canada from England during the 1970s. Harpsichordist Hendrik Bouman of Musica Antiqua Köln taught at Concordia and Laval. The English-born Edward Norman came to Canada in 1967 and has been active in Halifax and Vancouver. The US-born John Whitelaw (a pupil of Kenneth Gilbert) resided in Canada 1967-71, won the Prix d'Europe in 1970, and went on to teach at the Royal Conservatory in Ghent.
Many Canadian harpsichordists have become noteworthy in the latter part of the 20th century and into the early 2000s.
Canadian Conservatory and University Instruction
Canadian music schools offering harpsichord instruction in 2005 include Memorial University, McGill University, Concordia University, Laval University, University of Montreal, University of Quebec at Montreal, University of Ottawa, Wilfrid Laurier University, Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto, Tafelmusik Baroque Summer Institute, York University, University of Western Ontario, Conservatoire de Québec, McMaster University, Brock University, University of Manitoba, Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts, Medicine Hat College, Prairie Bible College, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia and the Banff Center. Several of these schools offer undergraduate and graduate performance programs and have early music ensembles. The majority of them use the traditional historically based instrument rather than the metal-framed harpsichord.
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Music Educators' Association
The website for the Canadian Music Educators' Association. See the latest news about their programs, events, and publications.
Glossary: Names of Instruments and Voices
A multilingual glossary of instrument names and voices. From Yale University.
The website for acclaimed Canadian harpsichord craftsman and musician Yves Beaupré. Features audio clips of harpsichord music and an online harpsichord image gallery.
Interactive multimedia lessons in basic music theory. From Musictheory.net.
Les Idées heureuses
Les Idées heureuses enthusiastically presents new discoveries of Baroque works, making their lecture concerts, based on musicological research, into vibrant and important cultural encounters in Quebec.
Clavecin en Concert
The website for the award-winning Clavecin en Concert. Offers a profile of Luc Beausejour, current concert calendar, audio samples, and more.
Analekta presents a biography, discography, and selected audio clips from recordings by acclaimed harpsichordist and organist Luc Beauséjour.
Browse or search this extensive site for biographies, discographies, and brief audio excerpts from recordings featuring Canadian and international classical composers and performers. Also search for details and audio clips of Canadian orchestras and other classical music groups. Subscription required to access full tracks.
The website for composer Victor Mio. Features a biography, discography, audio clips from his recordings, and more.
Glossary: Classical Music
Tune into this informative guide to classical music. Covers music history, notes about musical instruments, a glossary of music terms, and much more. From the "Naxos" classical music label.
The website for acclaimed harpsichordist and organist Luc Beauséjour. Click on the links at the top of the page for more information and media clips of his music.