Boris Hambourg

photo by Violet Keene

cellist with the Quartet from 1924-1946

Having arrived with his family in England from Russia in 1891, Boris commenced his study of the cello with Herbert Walenn, and in 1898 was admitted to the Hoch Konservatorium in Frankfurt as pupil of Hugo Becker (cello) and Ivan Knorr (composition.) He also coached with the renowned Belgian violinist and composer, Eugene Ysaÿe. Following his debut in 1903 he made several concert tours of Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand both a soloist and a member of the Hambourg Trio with his brothers Mark and Jan.

In 1911 while Boris was performing in the United States, Leopold Stokowski offered him the position of Principal Cello with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He decided, however, to decline this tempting offer and continue his career as soloist and chamber musician. Settling in Toronto he helped establish in Hambourg Conservatory of Music. Upon the untimely death of his father Michael in 1915, Boris took over as director of the institution. His pupils included Marcus Adeney, Glen Morley, and Jim Hunter, who became head of the cello department at the Victoria Conservatory.

In 1923 Boris married Maria (‘Borina’) Bauchope of New Zealand, a pianist who had studied in London, and whose keen social skills helped establish the Hambourg position in the arts community. A year later Boris was requested by the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, then Governor General of Canada, to organize and take on tour the Hart House String Quartet, which bears the name of Hart House, the University of Toronto residence constructed for and dedicated by the Massey family. Throughout repeated tours of the U.S.A., Canada and western Europe, from 1924 to 1946, the Quartet performed for thousands of music lovers and brought accolades to Canada. At its farewell concert in 1946, Boris, as the only remaining original member of the Quartet, gave a brief but moving address to the audience. In 1948 he founded the Toronto Music Lovers Club, which offered a series of concerts by the Pirani Trio, the Kresz-Hambourg Trio, and the Pro-Musica String Trio with his nephew the violinist Klemi Hambourg and the Latvian violist, Pavel Zarins. Boris also gave cello recitals, often covering the repertoire from the baroque to the 20th century. He was an active member of the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto. Canadian author and playwright Robertson Davies wrote in a tribute to Boris….”Over his long teaching and performing career, he was a strong and good influence on Canadian music. We do not lack expert musicians in Canada now, but we will never have too many men with the qualities of Boris Hambourg.” *

While Boris devoted himself mainly to performing, he had several pupils who became highly successful teachers. One was James Hunter, who became head of the cello department at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and has left a legacy of brilliant performers and teachers from various parts of North America.

*from Death of a Pioneer, 1954

 Source: History Wire-The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada



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