Adolph Koldofsky 1905 - 1951


Adolph Koldofsky, the son of Russian-Jewish parents was born in London, England. He first came to Canada in 1910, but later returned to Europe to study advanced violin with renowned violinists Eugene Ysaye and Otakar Sevcik. He toured Czechoslovakia as the leader of the Sevcik String Quartet.

On returning to Canada, he intermittently played from 1923-1938 with the new Toronto Symphony Orchestra, whose conductor was Luigi von Kunits. In 1938 he joined the Hart House String Quartet as second violin.

Around 1934, Adolph Koldofsky was in a Toronto music store when he was approached by an Englishman named Barnes, who was attempting to sell old musical manuscripts. Barnes dabbled in collecting and had found the manuscripts about 20 years before in a bookstore in Toronto. The yellow manuscripts which were written in 18th Century hand, bore the name of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Koldofsky bought them and started a six year search to authenticate the manuscripts.

His search showed that the manuscripts were not in C.P.E. Bach’s s own handwriting. Seven were however of concertos by C.P.E. already listed or known to exist in European collections. Koldofsky believed that the other seven were new to the musical world. As all scripts were in the same handwriting and all had borne the name Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, there was no reason to believe that they were not authentic.

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach by Franz Conrad Löhr

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach by Franz Conrad Löhr

Toronto musical circles celebrated the discovery of the concertos. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation brought well-known Harpsichordist Wanda Landowska to Toronto to perform the concertos in a series of broadcasts. When heard, there was little doubt that they all indeed sounded like genuine Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach.

You can call it being in “the right place at the right time.”

After marrying piano accompanist Gwendolyn Williams in 1943, together they gave numerous violin and piano recitals.

Starting in 1941, Koldofsky lived in Cabbagetown. He moved to Vancouver in 1944 where he became the concertmaster of the Vancouver symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Junior Symphony.

In 1945 the Koldofskys moved to Los Angeles where he played with the RKO Studio Orchestra, and also gave wonderful chamber music recitals. Schoenberg’s last two instrumental works – the String Trio, Op. 45 and the Fantasy, Op. 47 – which were written for Adolph – were premiered while he was playing with the RKO Studio Orchestra.

Adolph died in 1951 and, in his memory, his wife Gwendolyn founded an annual scholarship, the Koldofsky Fellowship in Accompanying at the University Southern California music school.

The University of Southern California now offers the Adolph and Gwendolyn Koldofsky Memorial Scholarship.

In 2012, the University of Toronto inaugurated a Gwendolyn Williams Koldofsky Prize in Accompanying.

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