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Freedman, Harry [Frydmann, Henryk]

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Freedman, Harry [Frydmann, Henryk]

(b Łódź, 5 April 1922). Canadian composer of Polish birth. As a teenager he was an avid listener to big band jazz, though he focussed his creative attention on painting, which he studied at the Winnipeg School of Art (1935–40). His burgeoning interest in music, however, eventually led him to discontinue his studies in the visual arts in favour of lessons in the clarinet, harmony and counterpoint. Following a period of service in the Royal Canadian Air Force he enrolled in the Toronto Conservatory to study the oboe with Perry Bauman and composition with John Weinzweig. Through extensive score study the young Freedman gained an understanding of a variety of compositional styles and techniques, including serialism. He undertook very little other formal study in composition, although he worked briefly with Messiaen and Copland (Tanglewood, 1949) and Krenek (Toronto, 1953). From 1946 to 1969 he played the english horn in the Toronto SO, but he resigned this position in order to devote his energies to composition full-time. In 1970 he became the orchestra’s first composer-in-residence.

Freedman’s most important early work, Tableau (1952), is a rather self-conscious exploration of the 12-note technique inspired, like many subsequent compositions, by a painting. The remaining years of that decade, however, are characterized by a rejection of serialism and a quest for a unique musical language. During this period he experimented with various styles, some of which suggest the influence of composers such as Bartók, Prokofiev, Stravinsky and Copland. Fantasia and Dance (1955, rev. 1959) has been described by Freedman himself as ‘impressionistic, with overtones of Hindemith and Stravinsky’. His large orchestral work, Images (1958), evokes the line, colour and mood of three paintings, but enhances the visual experience through vivid orchestration and dramatic textural changes. The experiments of the decade culminate in the Symphony no.1 (1960), which both pays homage to its illustrious predecessors by adhering to many time-honoured symphonic traditions and strikes out in new directions suggested by his study of Bartók's Contrasts, Divertimento for Strings and Concerto for Orchestra.

During the 1960s Freedman began to incorporate jazz, aleatory techniques and electro-acoustic sounds into his compositions. At the same time, he returned to the serial technique he had rejected earlier, now exploring its compatibility with his own musical aesthetic. The Japanese-influenced work Tokaido (1964) employs serialism with unprecedented strictness. Later in the decade he retreated to the more flexible use of serialism that would characterize his later compositions. Canada’s centennial year, 1967, provided the impetus for a wealth of new works, the ballet Rose Latulippe notable among them. The score is extraordinarily effective in capturing the diversity of moods and events in the colourful plot. Another centennial work, Tangents, is a collection of symphonic variations based on two sets: the first, a 12-note pitch class set; the second, a ten-digit numerical set applied to metre, duration and articulation.

From the first tentative glimpses of jazz elements in Two Vocalises (1954), Freedman progressed through the use of jazz instruments and idioms in the 1960s (Armana, 1967; Scenario, 1970), to the thoroughly eclectic Pan (1972). This work features an exotic mixture of jazz, blues, samba, flamenco, rock, Amerindian text and comic theatre. Performers are asked to move about on the stage, gesture and interact with each other. The use of aleatory techniques increased sharply during this period as well. Scenario relied heavily upon the improvisational skills of jazz musicians, but with Klee Wyck (also 1970) improvisation takes its place in the symphonic idiom as a vital and integral component. Graphic I (1971) is arguably Freedman’s first avant-garde composition, exploring the relationships between electronic and acoustic sounds, and between composed and aleatory music. Freedman’s output is remarkably eclectic. He writes convincingly in widely disparate styles, such as those influenced by traditional formal models (Third Symphony, 1983), jazz (Another Monday Gig, 1991), ethnic musics (A Dance on the Earth, 1988) and musical theatre (The Explainer, 1976). His solid craftsmanship, versatility and integrity have earned him a place as one of Canada’s most respected composers.


(selective list)


Stage: Rose Latulippe (ballet, 3, B. Macdonald), orch, tape, 1966; Stratford, ON, 16 Aug 1966; Five over Thirteen (ballet, B. Macdonald), small orch, 1969; Ottawa, National Arts Centre, 1970; The Explainer, nar, fl, ob, vc, perc, pf, 1976; Abracadabra (jazz op, 1, M. Moore), 1979; Oiseaux exotiques (ballet) 1984 [based on Venezuelan folk music]; Fragments of Alice (scenes, L. Carroll), 1987; incid music

Film scores: Where will they Go?, 1959; Twenty Million Shoes, 1962; The Dark will not Conquer, 1963; Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1963; Seven Hundred Million, 1964; Let me Count the Ways, 1965; Romeo and Jeanette, 1965; Spring Song, 1965; An Act of the Heart, 1968; Isabel, 1968; China ‘The Roots of Madness’, 1969


Orch: Tableau, str, 1952; Fantasia and Dance, vn, orch, 1955, rev. 1959; Images, ‘Musical Impressions of 3 Canadian Paintings’, 1957–8; Sym. no.1, 1960; Fantasy and Allegro, str, 1962; Chaconne, 1964, rev. 1982; Armana, 1967; Tangents ‘Symphonic Variations’, 1967; Klee Wyck, ‘Musical Impressions of the Paintings of Emily Carr’, 1970; Scenario, a sax, elec b gui, orch, 1970; Graphic I, orch, tape, 1971; Tapestry, 1973 [based on J.S. Bach]; Nocturne II, 1975; Celebration, s sax, b sax, orch, 1977; Royal Flush, conc. grosso, brass qnt, orch, 1981; Conc. for Orch, 1982, rev. 1985; Sym. no.3, 1983; Passacaglia, jazz band, orch, 1984; A Garland for Terry (M. Waddington), nar, orch, 1985; A Dance on the Earth ‘3 Orch Dances from Venezuela, USA and Ghana’, 1988; Sonata for Winds, ww, brass, perc, 1988; Touchings, conc., 5 perc, orch, 1989; Town ‘A Musical Impression of Harold Town, the Man and his Art’, 1991; Indigo, str orch, 1994

Chbr and solo inst: Wind Qnt, 1962; Variations, fl, ob, hpd, 1965; Lines, cl, 1973; Encounter, vn, pf, 1974; Tsolum Summer, fl, perc, str, 1976; Opus Pocus, fl, vn, vc, 1979; Blue (Str Qt no.2), 1980; Chalumeau, cl, str qt/str orch, 1981; Contrasts ‘The Web and the Wind’, 15 solo str, 1986; Little Girl Blew, b cl, 1988; Bones, mar, 1989; Another Monday Gig, jazz ens, 1991; Touchpoints, fl, va, hp, 1994; Blue Light, fl, cl, b cl, vn, vc, pf, 1995; Higher, b cl, b ob/vc, 1996; Marigold, va, 2 perc, synth, 1996, rev. va, orch, 1999; Graphic 8, str qt, 1998–2000; Graphic 9: For Harry Somers, 16 solo str, 2000


Choral: Vocalises, S, cl, pf, 1954; The Tokaido (Jap. poets), SATB, wind qnt, 1964; Keewaydin (Amerindian place names from the map of Ontario), SSA, tape, 1971; Pan, S, fl, pf, 1972; Pastorale, SATB, eng hn, 1977; Nocturne III, chorus, orch, 1980; Borealis, 4 choruses, orch, 1997

Solo: 3 poèmes de Jacques Prévert, S, str orch/str qt/pf, 1962; Toccata, S, fl, 1968; Pan, S, fl, pf, 1972; Epitaph for Igor Stravinsky (J. Reeves), T, str qt, trbn qt, 1978; Anerca (Inuit poems, trans. E. Carpenter), S, vib, hp, pf, 1992; Spirit Song, S, str qt/str orch, 1993


MSS in CDN-Tcm

Principal publishers: Ricordi, Canadian Publishers, Huron Press, MCA


EMC2 (L. Litwack, J. Beckwith)

K. Macmillan and J.Beckwith, eds.: Contemporary Canadian Composers (Toronto, 1975)

G. Dixon: ‘Harry Freedman: a Survey’, Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario, v (1980), 122–44


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