56_anton-kubalekANTONÍN KUBÁLEK WAS A GREAT AND GOOD MAN whom I had the honour of knowing for some 30 years. Always quick with a smile, a joke, and a drink, Anton reveled in the absurd. Life never failed to supply him with suitable material, even in his childhood. He attended a school for the blind following an accident with a post-war bazooka, though he eventually regained partial site in his remaining eye. As as a citizen of a Socialist paradise however he was required to wear a bag over his head in the classroom so that his comrades should not feel disadvantaged! Later, as a rising young pianist, he would be sent out on tours by the Czech concert bureau, arriving at back-water recital halls to wrestle with ill-tuned instruments with missing keys and even legs and, on one memorable occasion, finding an accordion laid out for him. He knew from experience to always have a packed bag ready, so that when Prague seethed in turmoil in 1968 he was well-prepared to flee to Vienna. There, at the Canadian Embassy, he was shown a map and chose a city called Toronto, because he was impressed by the size of its lake.

His arrival here soon caught the attention of Glenn Gould, who produced a unique album of his playing. Anton was incredulous that in the middle of July Gould still stuck with his trademark overcoat, cap and gloves in the sweltering Eaton Auditorium. The CBC also took note; producer David Jaeger in particular employed Anton to bring to life numerous new Canadian works, including several of my own. Among Anton’s finest recordings are those he recorded in Troy, N.Y. in the 1990s for the Dorian label, which he independently re-released this past summer on-line at CDbaby.com.

His last decade was blessed by the presence of two angels, his second wife Pat and daughter Karolina. They had travelled as a family to Prague this fall and planned to spend a year there so that Karolina could advance her piano studies. Cruel though it is to have lost him there so unexpectedly, I cannot imagine a happier end to a fruitful life, so thoroughly enjoyed and savoured, than to be surrounded by those he loved best.

 

56_ahmedhassan__photo111THERE ARE MUSICIANS AND COMPOSERS AMONG US who do not find their artistic legs in concert halls, churches or clubs. A brave few find a livelihood providing music for choreographers, exploring together the ancient marriage of dance and music. Ahmed Hassan, who died in Toronto on January 19 aged 55 did just that, moreover developing his passion into a successful career.

Born in New York City to Egyptian parents, Hassan’s family moved to Cairo, then settling in Halifax in 1969. While a student of biochemistry at Dalhousie University, his life’s path took a decisive turn toward music after encountering the charismatic drummer Ricardo Abreut of the Toronto Dance Theatre, another self-taught dance musician.

Starting in the late 1970s Hassan began playing for dance classes and collaborating with a long list of leading Canadian modern dance choreographers. Hassan moved to Toronto in the early 1980s to work with the Desrosiers Dance Theatre. With fellow composer John Lang, Hassan co-composed the music for Desrosiers’ acclaimed Blue Snake (1984/5) for The National Ballet of Canada. The National Film Board documentary film Inner Rhythm (1986) records the composers’ creative process. Hassan also played a role in the city’s emerging world music scene. For a time his home was the base for Arabic music classes where musicians such as his sister Maryem (Hassan Tollar), Debashis Sinha, Ernie Tollar, and other members of the future group Maza Meze congregated.

Sable/Sand (1995) for which Hassan composed the music won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for choreography for Serge Bennathan, Dancemakers’ Artistic Director. The moving film Sanctum (1996), the score by Hassan, explores the work of his life partner and colleague the renowned dancer-choreographer Peggy Baker. Hassan’s last creative project Fourteen Remembered, a requiem to commemorate the lives of the murdered women of Montréal’s École Polytechnique, was performed annually from 1998 to 2001 at various Toronto venues including Massey Hall.

Hassan had suffered from progressive MS since 1987; nevertheless he courageously continued to perform into the mid-1990s with Peggy Baker.

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