Canadian pianist Antonin Kubalek dies

Antonin Kubalek, a Canadian classical pianist who made more than two dozen recordings and toured regularly, has died at the age of 75.

Brain tumor surgery resulted in fatal complications

Antonin Kubalek, a Canadian classical pianist who made more than two dozen recordings and toured regularly, has died at the age of 75.

News of his death in Prague came out over the weekend. The Toronto Star reports he died Jan. 19 from complications after surgery to remove a brain tumour.

Born Nov. 8, 1935, in Libkovice, Czechoslovakia, Kubalek, who had partial sight, studied at the Prague Conservatory from 1952 to 1957.   He would go on to teach there during the 1960s.

Antonin Kubalek left Czechoslovakia in 1968 and had his Canadian debut at the University of Toronto in 1969. ((CBC))

He moved to Canada in 1968 — during the Prague Spring when controls were lessened — and made his debut in his adopted hometown at the University of Toronto in 1969.

"The only reason why I left was more the need to expand my horizon, basically," he said in a 2005 interview with Radio Prague.

"Of course the fact that Warsaw Pact troops were occupying the streets of Prague didn't help."

Kubalek would teach regularly at the Royal Conservatory of Music as well as York University while touring and making recordings, two of which were nominated for Junos in the 1990s. Kubalek was also featured frequently on CBC Radio.

In an interview with the Star, Brian Levine, who co-founded the Dorian music label, said Kubalek was one of the best interpreters of Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann.

He added that one of Canada's greatest pianists, Glenn Gould, was an ardent supporter of Kubalek. In fact, Gould produced one album with Kubalek, released in 1974. It featured Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Sonata No. 2 in E Major, Op.2 and Fairy Pictures, Op. 3.

Returned to homeland for 1st time in 1991

Fellow pianist James Anagnoson, head of the Glenn Gould Professional School at the conservatory, said Kubalek was a "warm-hearted individual" who also had a good sense of humour and a solid sense of humility.

In 1991, Kubalek returned to Czechoslovakia for the first time to give concerts. That visit helped him re-establish ties with his homeland, returning often to perform there including at the Prague Music Festival.

"It was a hall where I last played when I graduated. Sure enough, half an hour before the concert there were no people!" Kubalek recalled in his Radio Prague interview.

"So I sort of resigned myself to the situation and when the time came they shoved me out and the hall was packed! All just in half an hour, and it was a really, really satisfying moment for me."

He received the Czech Music Council's Honorary Award in 2002 for the "promotion of Czech music and the representation of Czech performing arts abroad."

In 2003, he inaugurated the first Antonin Kubalek International Piano Courses in Zlate Hory, Czech Republic.