The recent death of the eminent violinist Jacques Israelievitch, 67, marks the end of a life devoted to music and the arts. The French-born musician succumbed to cancer in Toronto on Sept. 5.
I first met Jacques and his wife, Gabrielle, soon after their arrival in Toronto in 1988. He came here to assume the position of concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), and would eventually become the longest-serving concertmaster in the history of the TSO, departing in 2008 after 20 years. He also served as the music director of the Koffler Chamber Orchestra at the Koffler Centre of the Arts from 2005 until its demise in 2014.
Israelievitch was a musician of high intelligence, vast experience, determination, enterprise, curiosity, and integrity. We became friends and colleagues, and I was honoured to perform as pianist with him in 2014 and earlier this year. He played the viola in our recitals – and of course, played it wonderfully.
Jacques was a tireless musician whose greatest joy was to rehearse and perform, whether as a solo violinist or violist, chamber musician or concerto soloist. His musical tastes were all-embracing, ranging from unaccompanied Bach through virtuoso romantic repertoire to demanding contemporary works. His appetite for music and art was unquenchable.
Visual art, especially ceramic art, was one of Jacques’ passions. Upon his arrival in Canada, he tried to learn all he could about Canadian art. He and Gabrielle commissioned works from Canadian artists and employed Canadian craftspeople to build objects. They became charter members of Toronto’s Gardiner Museum. Jacques undertook collaborations that combined music with the visual arts.
He was deeply committed to teaching violin, viola and chamber music in Toronto, at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York, and at master classes in China and Japan, among other places.
Glowing testimonials to his teaching were posted on Facebook soon after his death.
From Nicole: “Thank you for inspiring in me the greatest thing that any teacher could teach: not to be a mere pedestrian – to be different, and to do things your own unique way. Whether it be in musical performance or involvement in the community, those words guided my every experience and brought me to where I am today. So I thank you for igniting that fire 10 years ago, in the 10-year-old mind of mine. Your legacy will live with us forever.”
From Jamie Kruspe, assistant concertmaster of Canadian Opera Company Orchestra: “RIP Mr. Israelievitch, you will be missed by all. It was an honour and a privilege to have been your student and work with you over the years. Thank you so much for having such a strong musical influence on me.
“I’ll never forget what you taught me and how you inspired me during my studies at U of T and Chautauqua, but most of all I will miss making music with you in the Koffler Orchestra. It is going to be hard for me to accept that you’re no longer here with us. I’ll see to it that your unique and sincere style of playing lives on.”
From Samantha: “Your teachings and love for the art will always be reflected in my playing. To the best violin mentor anyone can ever ask for, Mr. Israelievitch.” Other tributes came in from those he touched.
From the TSO: “With deep sadness we mourn the passing of our dear friend and former longtime concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch… he made immeasurable contributions to the orchestra during his tenure. Our deepest condolences to his family from all of us at the TSO.”
From the Chicago Symphony Orchestra: “The Chicago Symphony Orchestra notes with sorrow the passing of violinist Jacques Israelievitch, who served the orchestra as assistant concertmaster from 1972 until 1978.”
From Peter Herrndorf, president and CEO of the National Arts Centre: “Jacques Israelievitch performed many times with the TSO at the National Arts Centre, especially after our orchestras began to perform annually in each other’s concert halls starting in 2004 as part of our special relationship. Our sympathies go out to his family and all his colleagues in the music community."
The life of Jacques Israelievitch exemplified commitment and high professionalism, and will continue to inspire all those whose lives he enriched.
Donations in memory of Jacques Israelievitch can be made to the newly established Jacques Israelievitch Endowment for Violin/Viola and Interdisciplinary Arts at York University, which will be granted to an exceptional incoming student enrolled in the Department of Music in the School of the Arts Media, Performance & Design
To make a donation, visit here and select “Other” for the “Please designate my gift to” section and then specify below “Jacques Israelievitch Scholarship”.