The New World
On Dec. 22, 1939, Morawetz' siblings Herbert and Sonja arrived in St. John, New Brunswick on a
blacked-out ship from England. Sonja was welcomed with a box of chocolates
arranged by Norman Sommerville, a lawyer and head of the Red Cross. Not knowing that the gift had come from a
man befriended by their father, this left a great impression on the young refugee of their new
country. They went on by train, arriving in Toronto on December 24.
Sommerville had also arranged for Oskar Morawetz to gain entry to Canada from
Santo Domingo, and Morawetz arrived in his new homeland on June 17, 1940. As the
war progressed, the
Canadian Army instituted a special war-time conscription for non-Canadians. In
1943, Morawetz went for a medical examination to evaluate his eligibility for the army. With some relief, he was deemed medically unfit to serve in
the military. A chest X-ray revealed that he had at one time been
exposed to T.B., and thus harboured dormant T.B. cells in his body.
Although it posed no threat to him or others in the normal course of his life, the
risk of an outbreak during military service was sufficient cause for his rejection.
In Nov. 1946, Morawetz' brother John and John's new bride, Maureen, arrived from
England, and the whole family was thus finally reunited. However, although
Richard and Frida had managed to bring all their children to Canada, they lost a
great number of extended family members to the Nazi concentration camps.
Home in Toronto
Oskar, Sonja, Frida, Herbert, Cathleen Morawetz, and uncle Alfred Glaser
In January 1940, Richard Morawetz rented a furnished house at 214 Russell
Hill Road. When their home was broken into by burglars, a reporter came and
asked what the immigrants thought of their new country. The headline of the
ensuing article was: Home is Broken Into - Canada 'Still Okay'
Aug. 19, 1940.
The Toronto Daily Star
This minor incident did nothing to diminish the high regard with which the
Morawetz family viewed their new homeland. More unsettling was the anti-Semitism
they experienced, and this eventually compelled Morawetz' brother Herbert to move to
the United States, settling finally in New York.
In 1943 the family moved to another rental home at 424 Rosemary Road, and
then in 1944, Richard Morawetz purchased his only Canadian home at 17 Dewbourne
Ave. Oskar Morawetz lived here with his parents until his marriage in 1958.
Certificate of Naturalization
On Jan. 16, 1946, the day before his 29th birthday, Morawetz became a naturalized Canadian citizen.
When his parents had asked him, while he was studying in Paris,
if he wanted to join them in Canada, he had initially declined, not wanting to go to
a country that was musically "uncultured". On finally arriving in
Canada, his first impression of his new home was the vastness of the country.
He was once invited to stay with friends in northern Ontario. He decided to take a
walk in the woods, something he had often done in his country of birth with no
thought of getting lost, as one could never walk far before
running into civilization. However when he decided to return, he walked in
several directions trying to retrace his steps before realizing he was hopelessly
lost. After a moment of panic, he prudently decided to
walk in a straight line, hoping that he would not walk even deeper into
the woods. After several hours he came to a back road, and when someone finally
drove by and picked him up, he found that he was more than 20 miles from his
original destination. This experience left a deep impression on the enormity of
the new world in which he had arrived.
1956 telegram from Morawetz' cousin Frank Morton
Morawetz' cousin Frank had settled in Montreal, and in order to assimilate
himself in his native land, had changed his family name from Morawetz to the
more Anglo-Saxon name, Morton.
However, always full of humour and wit, Frank sent his cousin a telegram after
one of Morawetz' early successes as a composer saying that he was considering
changing his name back to Morawetz!
In the early 1940s, Morawetz began dating. However this area of human
relations was not his forté. Curiously, he had a real
knack for "flattering the ladies", whether it be a restaurant waitress or the
soprano who had just sung one of his compositions. However this "talent" never
resulted in anything more than him gathering a string of admiring women. He
seemed either incapable of or unwilling to pursue a relationship to a deeper
Peggy Moreland, 1942
For a while, he dated a
young violinist, Peggy Moreland. However Morawetz, completely oblivious of her
intentions, was more impressed by Peggy's mother, who was trying to "butter him
up" for her daughter. He dated several girls from Czech families, and had a
number of women admirers native to Toronto. However nothing ever came of any of
Morawetz and Margaret Ireland, 1994
He later dated a pianist, Margaret Ann Ireland to whom he dedicated his
Fantasy in D, but as he did not "make a
move", she eventually married someone else. Morawetz remained close friends
with her, and they kept up a correspondence for many years, even after she
settled in New Brunswick.
When Morawetz' brother Herbert would ask him why he doesn't give a particular
woman a call, he was always very indecisive. This indecisiveness once led his father
to assert: "Cathleen [Herbert's wife] will have three children before Oskar buys
his first tape recorder!" Thus, at the age of 40, Morawetz was
still a bachelor living at home. When he seemed
to take an interest in the young pianist, Ruth Shipman, his father, worrying
that his artistic son might never marry, suggested that she might make a
congenial partner: she's a musician and shares your interest in music. It was that little
bit of prompting that had Morawetz finally propose marriage.
Karel Ancerl, Frida Morawetz, Hana Ancerl, Muskoka 1969
|The Morawetz family
developed many close friendships in their new life in Toronto. Many of them
were also from the Czech community.
couple that became close friends were the Ancerls. Maestro Karel
Ancerl, former conductor of the Czech Philharmonic, was the conductor of the Toronto
Symphony Orchestra from 1969-1973. He premičred Morawetz' From the Diary
of Anne Frank in the United States in both Carnegie Hall and
Washington's Kennedy Centre.
Maestro Ancerl's wife, Hana, became a close
friend of Morawetz' mother Frida. Although Hana Ancerl was about 20 years
younger than Frida, the two of them became very close. They called each
other every morning, and often played bridge together.
John and Helen Soyka, Sonja Morawetz with son, Michael, and
Morawetz' father became close friends
with John and Helen Soyka. Mr. Soyka had owned a piano making factory in
Czechoslovakia and the couple were great music lovers. Morawetz inherited
some piano music from the Soykas, including two books of opera excerpts
written for 2-hand piano (without the vocal line, which was incorporated in
the piano part). These editions were popular in the days when there was
little recorded music.
After settling in Toronto, the Soykas moved
to a home quite close to the Morawetz family. When Helen Soyka was widowed,
she was often included in family gatherings, such as annual Christmas
Elie Spivak was the concertmaster of the
Toronto Symphony Orchestra from 1931-1948. In 1949 he premičred Morawetz'
Duo for Violin and Piano. He and his wife Hilda became close
family friends, and Morawetz continued to visit Mrs. Spivak when she was widowed.
Morawetz was particularly fond of older
people. When his aging friends became ill, he was diligent about visiting
them to make sure they did not feel neglected and lonely. In addition to the widows of Mr. Soyka and Mr. Spivak,
they included Mrs. Kugler
(the widow of Victor Kugler who hid Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam,
and later emigrated to Toronto), and both Morawetz' parents-in-law.
Frank Erichsen Brown was a lawyer and amateur
painter and his family befriended the Morawetz family. His wife, Isa (Isabel) saw
herself as a "political hostess" and once gave a party for Otto Hapsburg
inviting all those who were part of the Austrian empire. Richard Morawetz was
invited, but being a Czech patriot, he turned them down!
Photo: Henry Pratt,
The Eifer Studio
Edith and Bob Binnie, 1991
One of Morawetz' dearest
friends was Bob Binnie. Mr. Binnie had been a stutterer as a young boy, and
to overcome this impediment, it had been suggested to him that he become
involved in some hobby. Thus young Bob decided to become a connoisseur
of classical music, and began an avid collection of LP records. The basement
of his home housed some of the finest stereo equipment, and at one count,
over 7000 records. Morawetz was invited to Bob Binnie's house many times for
a soirée of music. This would not involve just passively listening to
several records. The animated Binnie would, for example, play three
different recordings of a Wagner aria, pointing out how each artist
(conductor and singers) presented the music, replaying sections to point out
how a particular sigh or grace note was interpreted differently, and perhaps
ask Morawetz to identify the singer.
Morawetz found these evenings fascinating, while Binnie enjoyed Morawetz' company because of his depth of
knowledge of the music literature. Binnie was so knowledgeable about so
many different recordings that great musicians whom he invited to his home
departed from these musical soirées equally impressed.
Bob Binnie's wife, Edith, who worked as an
administrator at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Music was the widow
of the great baritone, James Milligan, who died at a young age at the cusp
of a big career. Mr. Milligan sang many of Morawetz'
songs, and recorded several of them with Morawetz at the piano.
Jan and Hanja Matějček,
In 1968, during the few months Czechoslovakia
experienced temporary reforms under the Dubcek government, and before the
Soviet invasion in August of that year, many citizens, doubtful of how long
these democratic deviations would last chose to seek refuge in other
countries. One of these was Jan Matějček and his family, whom Morawetz
helped out when they first arrived in Toronto. They soon bought a house in
the street next to Morawetz', and Mr. Matějček went on to a successful
career in the music business. He was founder of SODRAC, manager/president of
PROCAN, and was responsible for its merger with CAPAC to form SOCAN (the
Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada). The Matějčeks
remained very close friends of Morawetz, and as they lived so near to each
other, saw each other often.
Morawetz and Joseph Čermák, 1987
Dr. Joseph Čermák, a Toronto lawyer from
Czechoslovakia, has always been very active in the Czech community,
promoting his Czech fellow-patriots whenever he can. He is involved with the
Canadian Czech newspaper, Nový Domov (New Homeland), where
several times he was responsible for articles published about Morawetz'
successes as a composer. Dr. Čermák also arranged Czech events, including a
concert on Oct. 12, 1990, one of the
last at which Morawetz performed.
See Musician Friends for other close
friends Morawetz met in Canada.
Frida and Oskar
Morawetz had a special place in the heart of his mother, Frida. Perhaps because
he was so absent-minded, and his mother was constantly reminding him to
comb his hair, and tuck in his shirt, she felt that he needed a little more
"tender loving care" than her other children.
Someone whom she had just met asked her how many sons she had, and without
thinking she replied: "I have two sons ... and Oskar"!
Richard and Frida with their children
Richard's 70th birthday,
back: Herbert, Ric, John
seated: Frida, Richard
front: Maureen, Cathleen, Oskar, Sonja
John, Herbert, Richard,
back: Sonja, John, Oskar
front: Herbert, Richard, Frida
Morawetz family group photos
On the occasion of Richard Morawetz' 80th birthday
(Oskar and Ruth Morawetz were absent as they were in Europe
on a Canada Council travel grant)
Photo: McKee Photo Centre, 1961
back row: Sonja Morawetz, Pegeen Morawetz, Ruth Stein, John Morawetz,
Ric Sinclair, Leo Lederer, Charles Sachs, Walter Stein, Frank Morton,
middle row: Cathleen Morawetz, Hella Sachs, Maureen Morawetz, Frida
Morawetz, Richard Morawetz, Sonja Sinclair, Carola Morton, Eva Lederer
front row: Tony Sinclair, Michael Sinclair, Peter Morawetz, John
Morawetz, Kathryn Morawetz, Virginia Morawetz, Sylvia Morawetz, Lida
Morawetz, Helen Sinclair
On the occasion of the golden anniversary of Richard and
McKee Photo Centre,
back row: Oskar Morawetz, Maureen Morawetz, John Morawetz, Sonja
Sinclair, Ric Sinclair, Cathleen Morawetz, Herbert Morawetz
middle row: Ruth Morawetz, Peter Morawetz, Sonja Morawetz, Richard
Morawetz, Frida Morawetz, Michael Sinclair, Helen Sinclair, John Morawetz,
front row: Claudia Morawetz, Sylvia Morawetz, Virginia Morawetz,
Kathryn Morawetz, Tony Sinclair, Nancy Morawetz, Lida Morawetz
On the occasion of the golden anniversary of Richard and Frida Morawetz
back row: Cathleen Morawetz, Carola Morton, Joe Kelton, Jirina Glaser, Leo Lederer, Eva
Lederer, Maureen Morawetz, Ruth Morawetz, Ric Sinclair, Ruth Stein,
Walter Stein, Vera Kelton
middle row: Hella Sachs, Frida Morawetz, Richard Morawetz, Frank
front row: Pete Street, Herbert Morawetz, Oskar Morawetz, Sonja
Sinclair, John Morawetz