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Leonard Isaacs (Arranger, Conductor)

Born: January 3, 1909 - Manchester, England
Died: December 6, 1997 - Winnipeg, Canada

Leonard Isaacs was an English-born Canadian administrator, teacher, pianist, conductor, and arranger. His father was Edward Isaacs, the English pianist-composer and pupil of Ferruccio Busoni. Leonard studied from 1925 to 1929 at the Royal College of Music (RCM) in London with Herbert Fryer (piano), Gordon Jacob (composition), Frank Probyn (harmony), and Malcolm Sargent (conducting). He later studied piano in Paris with Alfred Cortot at the École normale de musique (receiving a diplôme d'exécution in 1930) and privately in Berlin with Egon Petri. Hae became Associate of the Royal College of Music (ARCM) in 1928, and obtained his Bachelor of Music degree in 1934. First visiting Canada in 1931-1932 as pianist, coach, and deputy conductor of the English Light Opera, he returned in 1953, 1957, 1960, and 1963 as an adjudicator for the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals (FCMF) while holding various producing and senior administrative positions with the BBC (1936-1963), notably as head of music for the 'Third Programme' (1950-1954) and for the 'Home Service' (1954-1963).

Leonard Isaacs moved to Canada to serve from 1963 to 1974 as director of the School of Music, University of Manitoba, and after his retirement from that position he was visiting professor in 1974-1975 at the University of Calgary and gave courses at Carleton University and at the Banff Centre for the Arts. In 1973, he became a naturalized Canadian. In the 1970s he was heard frequently on CBC radio programs, as commentator on 'Canadian Concert Hall,' 'New Records,' and 'In Concert,' as host for the CBC Winnipeg Festival (1975-1977), and as writer-commentator for the special series 'Chamber Music' (1976) and 'The Human Bach' (1977). In 1982 Isaacs became professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba; he continued to teach privately.

Isaacs' published works include Four French Canadian Folk Songs (Schott 1959) for soprano and harp or piano, piano duets and trios for festival use issued 1954-1955 by Curwen, and an arrangement of J.S. Bach's The Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) for chamber orchestra (Augener, 1952). The latter was recorded by George Malcolm and the Philomusica of London (Argo 2-LP), by the CBC String and Woodwind Ensemble under Alexander Brott (RCI 126), and by a string and woodwind group under Isaacs (RCI). Isaacs also contributed articles to EMC, and completed his memoirs in 1996. He continued giving performances and lectures until November 1997.


'Boris Roubakine mourned by following,' Canadian Music Teacher, (November 1974)
'Manitoba Opera (Le Nozze di Figaro),' OpCan (summer 1992)
Leonard Isaacs: Five lives in one: Selected memoirs. (Hubbards, N.S. 1998)


Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia 2013 Historica Foundation of Canada (Authors: Jeffrey Anderson, Betty Nygaard King)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (June 2013)

Leonard Isaacs: Short Biography | Arrangements/Transcriptions: Works | Recordings of Works for Orchestra

Links to other Sites

Leonard Isaacs (The Canadian Encyclopedia)



Linda Litwack: 'Winnipeg musician looks back over fifty years,' Fugue, Vol. 2 (February 1978)
William Neville: 'Lives lived: Leonard Isaacs,' Toronto Globe and Mail, (January 8, 1998)

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