The York Concert Society in memory of its music director Heinz Unger established the Dr. Heinz Unger Scholarships in 1967. The Dr. Heinz Unger Scholarships Fund was established by a contribution from the York Concert Society and the Ontario Arts Council in 1968–1969.
The award is given to an individual to encourage and highlight the career of a young to mid-career Canadian conductor who has professional experience with a professional, semi-professional and/or community orchestra. A young to mid-career conductor is defined as one who has begun to establish and make an impact in his/her chosen field. The award is not intended for established international music conductors. No awards will be made posthumously.
An award committee composed of up to five recognized Canadian music professionals is responsible for nominating the candidates and selecting the award winner.
The Ontario Arts Council manages the selection process.
The OAC awards office does not accept unsolicited nominations for this award.
Dr. Heinz Unger was born in Berlin in 1895. He first studied law and decided to go into music after some thought, and some inspiration from Gustav Mahler and his music.
He made his professional conducting debut in Germany around 1920 with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. At that time he conducted Mahler, including Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and The Song of the Earth.
Unger had an extensive career in Europe and toured to the Soviet Union. Then in 1933 he went to London, England, where he conducted the Northern Philharmonia Orchestra until 1947. He made his North American debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1937. He came back again in 1938; then, after leaving the Northern Philharmonia Orchestra, he came to Canada in 1947 and settled in Toronto. He conducted as a guest with the Promenade Symphony Orchestra. Those concerts were given in the Varsity Arena, near the site of the present Conservatory. He conducted with the CBC Symphony Orchestra, which was a very prestigious ensemble at that time, as well as doing guest appearances across Canada.
In the early fifties, 1953 to be exact, the York Concert Society was formed to organize an annual series of four spring concerts. The York Concert Society drew musicians from the TSO and from the CBC; it provided a high standard of performance; and it showcased guest artists, including Anton Kuerti, Lois Marshall, James Milligan and many other Canadians. The York Concert Society continued to give an annual season until Unger’s death in 1965The York Concert Society established the Heinz Unger Award in 1968.
Unger was also an honorary director of the Gustav Mahler Society of America and was awarded the Mahler Medal. He received a number of awards in his lifetime and continued to be a guest conductor around the world. He also gave the Canadian premieres of works by several Canadian composers.