Professor Hambourg, who had taught at the Moscow Conservatory, arrived in Canada with his family in 1910. The timing could not have been more propitious, and the idea of a musical institution, based on European concepts, appealed to many of the city’s musical elite. His sons, violinist Jan and cellist Boris were already known as brilliant performers. Michael’s oldest son Mark, one of the world’s leading concert pianists and resident in London, England, also lent the aura of his reputation. The youngest protégé, pianist Clement Hambourg also taught at the Conservatory and later founded the House of Hambourg, Toronto’s first after hours jazz club. All the Hambourgs were active members of the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto and frequent contributors to its various events.

Under the aegis of the Hambourgs, eminent European teachers and performers were attracted to Toronto, and the Conservatory soon became a thriving hub of musical activity. Recognized not only for the excellence of its teachers, it was the alma mater of some of Canada’s most noted musicians. On occasion glittering parties honouring visiting celebrities were held on the premises. After Michael’s untimely death in 1915, Boris was appointed Director of the Conservatory and with his wife, Maria, continued the tradition for another 38 years.

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Artists Impression

The Hambourg Conservatory
artist: George Hume

Over the years the distinguished faculty included Harry Adaskin, Marcus Adeney, Boris Hambourg, Helmut Blume, George Boyce, Giuseppe Carboni, Rachel Cavalho, Ruth Cross, Henri Czaplinski, Norah Drewett, Ernest Farmer, Broadus Farmer, Eduardo Ferrari-Fontana, Emil Gartner, Geza de Kresz, Eleanor Griffith, Alberto Guerrero, Clement Hambourg, Redferne Hollinshead, James Campell McInnes, Yasha Paii, Bernard Preston, Marcel Ray, Maurice Solway, Elie Spivak and Reginald Stewart.

The Conservatory was also the headquarters of the world famous Hart House String Quartet established in 1924 by the Rt. Hon. Vincent Massey, then Governor-General of Canada. Although the building no longer stands, the Hambourg Conservatory of Music will remain an important landmark in Toronto’s musical history. The site is presently occupied by the St. James Town Library and Community Centre, where a painting by Toronto architect George Hume and a description of the Conservatory were installed in May, 2009.


Boris Hambourg | Jan Hambourg | Mark Hambourg | Clement Hambourg | Klement Hambourg | Tanya Hambourg | Corinne Hambourg Visscher
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