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Themes - Theatre, Dance, and Music

Kathleen Parlow

Photograph of Kathleen Parlow




Violin virtuoso Kathleen Parlow was born in Calgary in 1890. As a child she studied in San Francisco and in St. Petersburg, giving her first recital at the age of six. By the age of 15, she was performing for the British Royal Family. She made her professional debut in 1907 in Berlin and thereafter toured internationally, based initially in Europe and then in the United States.

In 1941 she moved to Toronto to teach at the Toronto Conservatory of Music, and immediately assumed a leading position in the community as an active chamber musician and as a soloist with ensembles such as the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She performed with some of the most prominent Canadian artists of her time, including the pianists Sir Ernest MacMillan and Mario Bernardi and the cellist Zara Nelsova. The renowned Parlow String Quartet, which was active from 1943 to 1958, acquired an international reputation.

Godfrey Ridout wrote in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada (Toronto, 1992): "As a performer Parlow was very great indeed. She had a big, pure tone, a suave legato ('as if she were playing with a nine-foot bow,' as one admirer put it) and effortless technique."

She died in 1963 of complications from a fall. Thanks to her recordings, scholarships in her name, and two generations of students, her influence continues to be felt throughout Canada and the world.


French, Maida Parlow. — Kathleen Parlow: a portrait. — Toronto: Ryerson Press, c1967. — 167 p.

Hambleton, Ronald. — "Tea with Kathleen Parlow". — Fugue. — Vol. 2, no. 6 (February 1978). — ISSN 07028393. — P. 12-15

You can listen to Johann Sebastian Bach's Gavotte in E Major [WAV 902 KB] performed by Kathleen Parlow (solo violin). (Columbia Records, ©1914)

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