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Nicholas Goldschmidt (Conductor)

Born: December 6, 1908 - Tavikovice, Moravia (Czechoslovakia)
Died: February 8, 2004 - Toronto, Canada

The Moravian-born Canadian Conductor, administrator, teacher, baritone, pianist, Nicholas Goldschmidt, was a grand-nephew of the Austrian composer Adalbert von Goldschmidt. He studied at the Vienna Academy of Music with Josef Marx (composition), Paul Weingarten (piano), and Corneille de Kuyper (voice). After conducting in various cities in Czechoslovakia and Belgium he emigrated in 1937 to the USA, where he was director of opera from 1938 to 1942 at both the San Francisco Conservatory and Stanford University and director of the opera department from 1942 to 1944 at Columbia University.

At the invitation of Arnold Walter, Nicholas Goldschmidt moved to Toronto, where he served from 1946 to 1957 as the first music director of the Royal Conservatory Opera School (University of Toronto Opera Division), from 1949 to 1957 as the first music director of the CBC Opera, and from 1950 to 1957 as music director of the Opera Festival Association, conducting productions of 13 operas, including Rigoletto (1950, 1954), The Marriage of Figaro (1951, 1955), and Hansel and Gretel (1957). His position as music director from 1950 to 1958 of the University of British Columbia summer school preceded his appointment as artistic and managing director from 1957 to 1962 of the Vancouver International Festival. In 1951 he became a naturalized Canadian.

While occupied from 1964 to 1968 as chief of the performing arts division of the Centennial Commission, responsible for organizing the nationwide celebrations and events of Festival Canada (1967), Nicholas Goldschmidt also founded the Centennial Choir in Ottawa, which he conducted until 1972. He became Artistic Director of the Edward Johnson Music Foundation in 1967 and served from 1968 to 1975 as Music Director of the University of Guelph, initiating and co-ordinating its Guelph Spring Festival in 1968 under the foundation's sponsorship. Continuing as the festival's artistic director until 1987, he conducted its productions of Benjamin Britten's The Prodigal Son (1969, the North American premiere), The Burning Fiery Furnace (1971), Noye's Fludde (1972), and The Rape of Lucretia (1974), George Frideric Handel's Acis and Galatea (1975), B. Britten's realization of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1976), Derek Healey's Seabird Island (1977, the premiere), a dramatization of Berlioz' oratorio L'Enfance du Christ (1980), Smetana's The Two Widows (1982, Canadian premiere), Gluck's Orpheus and Euridice (1984), and Mozart's opera buffa La finta giardiniera (1987). He also organized and prepared a concert of works by Krzysztof Penderecki, conducted at Guelph by the composer 8 May 1976. The festival honoured Goldschmidt on his retirement by establishing a scholarship for young singers in his name. In 1975 Goldschmidt added to his duties those of consultant to the Algoma Fall Festival, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, also conducting productions and organizing the Algoma Festival Choir.

In 1980 Nicholas Goldschmidt served as chairman of the national committee set up to organize the Healey Willan centenary celebrations, and that same year was appointed a member of the Canada Council. He was a member 1981-1983 of the advisory board of the National Library of Canada. Goldschmidt was artistic consultant for the 1984 Toronto International Festival, and the initiator and executive director of the 1985 International Bach Piano Competition. He was also the artistic director for the 1989 International Choral Festival held in Toronto and the executive director of the 1991 Glory of Mozart Festival held in Joliette, Quebec; St. John's, Nfld; and Toronto. Later festivals organized by Goldschmidt included two more Joy of Singing International Choral Festivals (1993 and 2002), the National Arts Centre's 1997-1998 summer festivals, and a Benjamin Britten Festival in 2003. He conducted Noye's Fludde again, on tour in 1995 for the 40th anniversary of the United Nations and, for the year 2000 millennium celebrations, spearheaded the national Music Canada Musique 2000 and its more than 60 commissions of new Canadian compositions.

Occasionally a soloist in oratorio or a recitalist in Lieder, Nicholas Goldschmidt made a specialty of Schubert's song cycle Winterreise, accompanying himself at the piano, and he gave many master-classes in Lieder. He accompanied himself in Schubert songs on the recording Emmy Heim - A Self Portrait (Hallmark).

Nicholas Goldschmidt's infectious enthusiasm for music combined with a resilient optimism, an instinct for the ripeness of an opportunity, and an ability to calculate a risk, made him Canada's most active festival entrepreneur in the years following his pioneer work with the Royal Conservatory Opera. He was the subject of a three-part CBC radio documentary titled Nicholas Goldschmidt: Reminiscences, in 1983, and of a CBC-TV episode of Adrienne Clarkson Presents. His many colleagues honoured him on his 80th birthday, December 6, 1988, with a concert at Toronto's St. Lawrence Centre. In 1976 Goldschmidt received the Canadian Music Council Medal, and he received the University of Alberta National Award in Music in 1979. He was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1978, then made a Companion in 1989; the Order of Ontario followed in 1994, and a Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 1997, in addition to a number of international recognitions. The Royal Conservatory of Music offers a scholarship in his name.

Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia © 2013 Historica Foundation of Canada (Author:s Maria Corvin, Patricia Wardrop, Betty Nygaard King)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (February 2013)

Recordings of Bach’s Instrumental Works




Nicholas Goldschmidt


Harpsichord Concerto No. 5  BWV 1056 [w/ pianist Glenn Gould]

Links to other Sites

Nicholas Goldschmidt (The Canadian Encyclopedia)

Nicholas Goldschmidt (Wikipedia)


Ronald Hambleton: 'A builder of Canadian opera,' Fugue (April 1978)
Renée Maheu: 'Nicholas Goldschmidt - chef d'orchestre,' L'Information médicale et paramédicale (November 20, 1979)
Felicity Mulgan: 'Nicholas Goldschmidt: profile of a visionary,' PfAC, vol 23 (November 1986)
Pauline Durichen: 'Nicholas Goldschmidt: an inspiring arts force,' Kitchener-Waterloo Record (April 22, 1988)
Gwenlyn Setterfield: Niki Goldschmidt: A Life in Canadian Music (Toronto 2003)
Robert Everett-Green: "Music organizer a perpetual party," Globe and Mail (February 10, 2004)
Nicholas Goldschmidt: 'Be exalted: convocation address,' Music, vol 11 (January-February 1988)

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