Adaskin began the teaching aspect of his career by instructing violin students 1915-22 privately in Toronto, then 1938-41 at Upper Canada College, and 1941-6 at the TCM. Among his pupils were his brother Murray, Adolph Koldofsky, Maurice Solway, and Harold Sumberg. He moved to Vancouver in 1946 as the first head of the University of British Columbia's new music department, enlisting the composers Barbara Pentland and Jean Coulthard as teachers. He also instituted a course in music appreciation based on his lifelong interest in music, painting, and literature. He retired as head in 1958 but continued to teach there until 1973.
As performer, Adaskin began playing violin in childhood in Toronto movie theatre orchestras, and 1917-18 with the Welsman Toronto Symphony Orchestra. He was second violin of the Academy String Quartet in 1920 and first violin 1920-2 in Milton Blackstone's quartet before serving 1923-38 as second violin in the Hart House String Quartet, with which he performed and toured until 1938 in Canada, the USA, Great Britain, and continental Europe. In 1923 he formed a duo with the pianist Frances (Alice) Marr and in 1926 married her. The couple gave the premieres of several Canadian works, including Gratton's Réminiscence (Toronto 1928, dedicated to the duo); Willan's Sonata No. 1 (Toronto ca 1930); Blomfield Holt's Pastorale and Finale (Toronto 1936) and Suite No. 2 (Toronto 1940); Weinzweig's Sonata (Toronto 1942); Pentland's Concerto for violin and small orchestra (Toronto 1945, arr for violin and piano), Vista (Vancouver 1948), and Duo (Vancouver 1960, commissioned by the duo); Coulthard's Two Sonatinas (Toronto 1946) and Poem (Vancouver 1948, dedicated to the duo); Turner's Sonata (Vancouver 1956, commissioned by the duo); and Murray Adaskin's Divertimento No. 1 (Vancouver 1956, dedicated to the duo, premiered with the composer as second violin). The Adaskins also took Canadian music abroad with them, performing, for example, Gratton's Danses canadiennes No. 1 and 2 and Réminiscence; Willan's Sonata No. 1; Leo Smith's Tambourin; and Champagne's Danse villageoise on BBC radio 22 Aug 1930. The Adaskins' repertoire also included the standard works, much French music, and a wide selection of US and European 20th-century music, including the Ives Sonatas and the Hindemith Concerto, (the latter they introduced to Canada in a violin and piano arrangement). They toured Canada several times 1944-54, gave New York recitals in 1948 and 1949, and performed often for CBC radio.
Adaskin's performances were sensitive and revealed intense and perceptive study of the scores; his playing was marked by technical facility and a particularly warm, generous tone. He retired from public playing when he was 69.
Harry Adaskin's "third career" - that of commentator-raconteur-host for CBC - began in 1938 with a lecture series, "Musically Speaking," which continued with interruptions until 1946. He also was the Canadian intermission commentator 1943-6 for the New York Philharmonic Sunday broadcasts and the host 1970-ca 1973 for CBC radio's "Tuesday Night" series. In 1976 and 1977 he was the host for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's concert series (live, not broadcast), which also bore the title "Musically Speaking." The 1980 CBC radio series "Fiddler's World" featured Adaskin's career, and he narrated three television documentaries entitled "The Passionate Canadians" on the Group of Seven, in 1977 and 1981. Adaskin was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1974. His retirement was spent in Vancouver. Adaskin's papers and audio tapes were donated to the University of British Columbia Archives by his son Gordon; and a Harry and Frances Marr Adaskin Scholarship was established at the University of Victoria.
A Fiddler's World: Memoirs to 1938 (Vancouver 1977)
"Imagination: the human gift," Recorder, vol 20, Mar 1978
A Fiddler's Choice: Memoirs 1938-1980 (Vancouver 1982)
Author Joanne Dorenfeld, Betty Nygaard King
"Meet our new musical spokesman," VSO, vol. 1, Sept 1977;
"Focus on Vancouver: On music and other mysteries," Music Magazine, vol. 3, Jul/Aug 1980
Links to Other Sites
Frances Marr Adaskin
A guide to the Frances Marr Adaskin fonds at the University of British Columbia Library.
Quartet in F minor. 1st movement. Allegro [sound recording] / Haydn
Listen to an audio clip of this composition featuring the Hart House String Quartet,Geza De Kresz, Harry Adaskin, Milton Blackstone, and Boris Hambourg. From The Virtual Gramophone, Library and Archives Canada.
Hart House String Quartet
The website for the Hart House String Quartet. Click on the links at the top of the page for an illustrated history and profiles of musicians who were members of this esteemed chamber ensemble.
The Adaskin Family
See a brief profile of one of Canada’s most esteemed musical families. From cabbagetownpeople.ca.