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(b. Voronezh, Russia 1882; d.Tours, France 1947)

Photograph of Jan Hambourg

jan In his book “The Unashamed Accompanist” Gerald Moore wrote… ”Jan was an epicure. His interests were bestowed in equal proportion on Bach, Burgundy, the French impressionists and racehorses.” Jan came to London with his family 1890. He studied with some of the great teachers of the time such as Emile Sauret, August Wilhelmj and Ottakar Sevcik. But it was Eugene Ysaÿe, the renowned Belgian violinist, who wielded the most important and lasting influence. His Berlin debut was made in 1905 and a year later he formed a string quartet comprising the legendary violist Lionel Tertis, violinist Kor-Jag and his brother Boris, cellist, which made history as the first ensemble of its kind to tour South Africa.

Another move in 1910 brought the Hambourg family to Toronto, where his father Michael established the Hambourg Conservatory of Music and Jan became head of the violin department. During his tenure he was invited with Boris to play a command performance in Ottawa for the then Governor General of Canada the Duke of Connaught. In 1915 he performed at an all-Tchaikovsky concert at Massey Hall featuring the Violin Concerto and the Piano Trio which is dedicated to Anton Rubinstein. He was also invited by Eugene Ysaÿe, who was at that time conductor of the of the Cincinnati Symphony, to perform Bach’s “Double” Concerto in D minor, also at Massey Hall.

The following year he married Isabelle McClung, the daughter of Judge Samuel McClung of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a close friend of the celebrated author Willa Cather. In 1920 the couple left Toronto to reside in Paris. Here at their elegant apartment on the rue du Bac they gave weekly soirees where he played chamber music with violinists Jacques Thibaud and David Hochstein, the latter chosen to represent the hero in Willa Cather’s novel One of Ours. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin and his sisters were frequent guests.

An avid Bach scholar, Jan published his own edition of the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin in 1934, (Oxford University Press) and was an advocate of the so-called “Bach bow” which allowed the player more flexibility in terms of chord playing. After his wife’s death in 1939 he returned to London where he was active as both an entrepreneur and chamber musician. His last appearance in Canada was given in 1935 with his brothers Boris and Mark at Massey Hall where they performed the Beethoven Triple Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Source: History Wire-Encyclopedia of Music in Canada

The Franck Sonata, review in the Arts and Letters Club newsletter, Dec. 1910

Jan and Isabelle Hambourg were close friends of Willa Cather.
Visit the Willa Cather Archive of the University of Nebraska for photos and information

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