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Jan. 18, 1982 The Toronto Star by Ronald Hambleton

Morawetz tribute a night of feeling

That was a handsome farewell given to Oskar Morawetz at Walter Hall on the weekend by the Faculty of Music of the University of Toronto.

Now 65, Morawetz will shortly be retiring after nearly 25 years as professor of composition, but although he was prepared to furnish all the music for an evening's concert, out of a body of work that could furnish a score of such evenings, he was certainly not prepared for the warmth of the tributes he received.

He said that Dean Gustave Ciamaga's brief accolade was "a little bit exaggerated" and confessed that it made him "twice as nervous" as playing the piano in public to stand on stage being applauded by the large audience of students, friends, well-wishers and Faculty colleagues.

Few of many

The program displayed only a few of his many compositions for small ensembles, ranging from his recent Brass Quintet (played by a student ensemble) and the idiomatic Flute Sonata (played by flutist Jeanne Baxtresser, who commissioned it two years ago, and pianist Patricia Parr), to the 1969 Sonata No.2 for Violin And Piano (Parr and violinist Victor Danchenko), and the formidable String Quartet No.2, dating from the early '50s (The Orford Quartet.)

They were truly representative of his characteristic idiom. Morawetz is not tuneful, not the least sentimental, and his irregular rhythms seem at times aggressive. But the music as a whole, though moodily undefined, flows with deep feeling, and this had its best expression in the concert's finale.

As an introduction to his Five Songs For Baritone (with Mark Pedrotti), to texts by Archibald Lampman, Anne Wilkinson, A. E.Housman and William Blake, Morawetz spoke from the heart before he sat at the keyboard. He recalled the "first performances some 30 years earlier by baritone James Milligan, who died tragically early at 33, just as he was establishing himself in European musical circles.

"This is the first time in 25 years," said Morawetz, "that I have brought myself to play these songs."

For a person who is no self-salesman, it was a touching preamble to a most effective song series, an affirmation of Morawetz' own great spirit, and a suggestion, even a declaration, that these retirement exercises may be for him only a prelude to an active life after 65.