Queen's University

Fond memories of Istvan Anhalt

One of his former students pays tribute to the late Prof. Istvan Anhalt, one of the giants of music education in Canada, who died earlier this year at the age of 92.

Istvan Anhalt, Canadian composer, Head of Music (Queen’s 1971-’81), musician, writer, teacher, colleague, scholar, and friend, died on February 24, 2012 in Kingston, ON, at the age of 92.

Prof. Anhalt studied in Zoltan Kodaly’s composition class in the Franz Liszt Academy of Music (1937-’41) until it became increasingly difficult for him to ignore his threatened status as a Jew in an increasingly anti-semitic Hungary. In December 1942 he was inducted into the Hungarian forced labour service system. However, after two years he fled to Budapest, Hungary, where he lived in hiding until 1945.

Istvan AnhaltIstvan Anhalt, 1919-2012

Following the war, Anhalt moved to Paris, where in 1946 he joined the composition class of Nadia Boulanger; studied piano with Soulima Stravinsky and conducting with Louis Fourestier. Two years later, he won a fellowship from the Lady Davis Foundation of Montreal with a three-year appointment to teach at McGill University. In 1971 a teaching job came up at Queen's, and he moved to Kingston where he taught in the school of Music uuntil 1984. During his time at Queen's he played a key role in building one of Canada’s best undergraduate music programs.

I recall that during my student days at Queen's we were in Goodwin House for our music classes. When Istvan Anhalt arrived in 1971 he oversaw the completion of Harrison-LeCaine Hall, which in 1974 became the new home of the School of Music. Anhalt graciously acknowledged the work of colleagues that had gone into the building, in particular Prof. Graham George and Principal David Smith.

Of particular interest for purposes of this tribute are the student course evaluations from the later period of Anhalt’s career. Generally, he was regarded by students as “sometimes hard to understand,” but always ‘erudite -- he really knows his stuff,” and “committed to his students…an informed, imaginative, and most thorough instructor.” He was instrumental in bringing superior staff to the School of Music -- teachers such as Denise Narciss-Mair (choral/education), Clifford Crawley (20th c.music/composer), Ireneus Zuk (piano/Director of School of Music) and many others.

What I will always remember about Prof. Anhalt were his winning smile and manner, which was felt by his students.

Kingston resident Martha Clarke recalls, “My most recent memories of Istvan Anhalt were of a kindly, rather quiet elderly gentleman walking downtown in a grey trench coat often carrying a bag of groceries. He always had something special to ask me or tell me, families being a common topic since he and my husband, Fred had followed one another in the same position at the Queen's School of Music before retirement.

"Fred had much respect for Istvan as a composer, referring to him as a 'heavyweight' in Canadian music composition. But another side of him was the genuine, thoughtful friend. He once gave us a mounted fog bell for our sailboat bearing the inscription 'Martha's and Fred's Boat.' Of course,it was a genuine antique 'servant's bell." In contrast to Istvan's intense creative output, there sometimes appeared a gentle, owlishly innocent sense of humour.”

Anhalt book -- 2001Prof. Anhalt's colleagues Eobin Elliott and Gordon Smith edited Pathways and Memory, a 2001 book of writings that celebrated  Anhalt's life and career.

On September 23, family, friends, colleagues, and former students celebrated Istvan Anhalt's memory in a moving service that was held in Wallace Hall, and that evening a tribute concert featured The Seiler Piano Trio playing Anhalt’s Fantasia for solo piano, which was written for Glenn Gould, and Piano Trio.

"Marriage is the foundation (up) on which everything else in my life could be, and was, undertaken,” Anhalt once wrote. He is greatly missed by his wife Beate (Frankenberg), daughters Helen and Carol; grandchildren Walker, Astrid and Claudia.

“Ever linked, his life story and musical career stand as truly remarkable in the history of music in Canada,” as Steve Simon wrote in The Globe and Mail on June 30,. 2012.






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