Musician Alexander Brott dies

The noted Canadian conductor, composer and violinist, Alexander Brott, has died. He was 90.

The noted Canadian conductor, composer and violinist, Alexander Brott, has died. He was 90.

He died peacefully at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal on Friday.

With his late wife and cellist Lotte, Brott was the founder and music director of the McGill Chamber Orchestra, which is now in its 65th year.

He also conducted the Kingston, Ont., symphony, started a series of pop concerts in Montreal, and set up a program to train young musicians.

His compositions have been played by leading conductors all over the world; in February, the New West Symphony — based near Los Angeles and headed by his son, Boris — performed My Mother, My Memorial.

In the program notes, Alexander Brott said the piece was an effort to represent his mother, Anna, in music.

"She was full of music and, though not a musician, she had great musical instincts. She was the person who in my early youth directed me toward the pursuit of music, often at great personal sacrifice.

"My Mother, My Memorial is the result of that struggle. In it you will find quotations from the Yiddish and Russian songs she sang to me, together with motifs she had appreciated in my writings. Often my excursion in atonality disturbed her, and she would ask to 'write a tune I can sing.' Some of the elements in this work are liturgical, some biblical, others folksy or even theatrical — all are written with love and devotion."

Alexander Brott was born in Montreal on March 14, 1915. He attended the McGill Conservatory, and later went to the Juilliard School in New York.

He won a scholarship to London's Royal Academy of Music, but the Second World War intervened. At McGill, he founded the McGill String Quartet in 1939, which became the McGill Chamber Orchestra.

The same year, his first major work for orchestra, Oracle, was performed, and he joined the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the faculty of McGill University.

Before retiring in 1980, he was a professor, conductor-in-residence and head of the department of orchestral instruments there.

A seven-volume set of his music was issued in 1985, and he received many honours, including the Order of Canada and the Order of Quebec.