Jacques Israelievitch given honour at his home
The Order of Canada ceremony for Casa Loma violinist Jacques Israelievitch was “quite touching”.
That was the sentiment expressed by the 67-year-old’s wife, Gabrielle, who delicately described the scene where he was bestowed the honour from Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, in his hospital bed at home on Aug. 14.
“It was in front of a painting that one of our friends, who was there, had painted. It goes from dawn till dusk, with a setting of aspen trees,” she shared. “Jacques has been lying in front of that painting all month, and I felt it was quite poignant that the picture was from dawn until dusk and here he has been in this room until his dusk.”
Israelievitch spent the 20 years as the concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra after coming to Canada from France. He also championed original music, often commissioning and debuting the works of Canadian composers, including Ray Luedeke,
He was also a professor at York University.
Though Israelievitch has been declining in health after being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer, which metastasized into his bones, he never gave up his passion for music.
“Almost immediately he played five concerts in five weeks,” Gabrielle said. “Five entirely different programs with five different piano partners.”
In May the Town Crier reported Israelievitch performed a series of Mozart sonatas in a day-long session (7.5 hours) for a seven-CD set. They are still a go.
But it’s not just his dedication to music that draws a proud breath from Gabrielle. It’s his ability to integrate all forms of art.
“Over the years we’ve been here, and been together, we’ve always had savants in our house, where musicians came and site-read music, artists painted and we sat around and drank wine,” she said. “It was all sitting amid the art and everything was all together.
“We aimed to be integrative in the arts and I know it’s one of the legacies that Jacques leaves: a sense of celebrating makers and crossing lines of different media, and working together.”
Once Jacques’ coda finishes, the next step is to launch a scholarship in his name at York University for violin and viola — the two instruments he mastered.
But in the mean time, he’s living out his dusk, with his three boys, David, 36, Michael, 32 and Joshua 27, as well as his two grandchildren, Aya 3, and Bennett, seven weeks old in mid August.
“We’ve been a house of eight people. Never having been all together, because Bennett is new, and we just haven’t been able to collect all of the kids,” Gabrielle said. “It’s been quite a beautiful process to be engaged and be together rather like this womb of transformation where everyone is growing and changing. It’s been quite a beautiful experience.”