Maurice Solway, violinist, composer (born 1906; died 2001). Maurice Solway was a violinist who played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for nearly twenty years.
Maurice Solway, violinist, composer (born 1906; died 2001). Maurice Solway was a violinist who played with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for nearly twenty years and enjoyed some success with his own Solway String Quartet. He also starred in the Oscar-nominated short film The Violin (1974), which featured some of his compositions.
Solway studied violin with his father, who had been a musician in Russia, and then with Harry Adaskin and Luigi von Kunits at the Canadian Academy of Music. He also studied with Henri Czaplinski and Géza de Kresz at the Hambourg Conservatory beginning in 1921. From 1926 to 1928, Solway studied with Eugène Ysaÿe in Brussels, Belgium, on the advice of de Kresz. He made his concert debut there in 1928. A hand injury and the need for stable employment led him to abandon a solo career in favour of orchestral playing.
From 1923 to 1926, Solway played in the New Symphony Orchestra — later the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). He then played in the TSO from 1933 to 1952. In 1947, he founded the Solway String Quartet with Jacob Groob, Nathan Green(berg) and Marcus Adeney. They gave their first concert in March 1948. Other personnel in the ensemble through the years included Murray Adaskin, Robert Warburton, Charles Dobias, Berul Sugerman, Ivan Romanoff and Joseph Pach. The quartet performed public and CBC concerts until 1968, and toured provincially in small towns, sponsored by the Ontario Board of Education. Their programs included standard repertoire, arrangements of familiar tunes and works by Jean Coulthard, James Gayfer, Sir Ernest MacMillan, John Weinzweig, Louis Applebaum, Howard Cable, Leo Smith and Healey Willan. In 1952, they presented the first "pops" concert at Hart House.
In 1948, the quartet premiered Coulthard's String Quartet No. 1, and in 1955 gave the first complete broadcast performance of MacMIllan's String Quartet in C minor. With Andrés Segovia, the Solway String Quartet gave the Canadian premiere of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco guitar quintet. Solway also played in jazz groups.
Compositions and other Pursuits
As a composer, Solway produced some 100 works, mainly for solo violin or violin and piano, often based on folk themes from countries he visited. Several of his compositions were published. His writings include Recollections of a violinist (1984), and "Ysaÿe – gentle giant of the violin" (Music, June 1980). He contributed original music to the film The Violin (1974), including Reminiscence and Warum for violin and piano, published by Boosey and Hawkes. He also starred in the film, which received a 1975 Academy Award nomination for Best Live Action Short.
Solway also taught violin and lectured about music. He was also one of several Canadian violinists who had the opportunity to play on a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius, owned since 1988 by the Canada Council Instrument Bank.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.
"Violoinist Makes Film Debut as Composer Actor," The Canadian Composer, CAPAC, vol. 77 (February, 1973).
Arthur Kaptainis, "Grateful Solway's Memories Pay Homage to Eugene Ysaÿe," Toronto Globe and Mail, 23 October 1981.
Robin Elliot, The String Quartet in Canada, PhD thesis (University of Toronto, 1990).
Eric Koch, The Brothers Hambourg (Toronto, 1997).