Norbert Kraft. Guitarist, teacher, producer, b Linz, Austria, 21 Aug 1950, naturalized Canadian 1954. He moved with his family to Toronto as a child, and after playing electric guitar in rock bands and studying piano and harpsichord as a teenager, he studied classical guitar 1967-70 with Carl (Carol) van Feggelen at the RCMT and 1970-1 with Eli Kassner at the University of Toronto. His later teachers included John Mills in England (1973-4) and Aaron Shearer in the USA (1978-9). He also participated in master classes with Aliro Diaz and Oscar Ghiglia in Europe. He began teaching at the RCMT in 1971 and at University of Toronto in 1978. He played in the Guitar Society of Toronto's festival (Guitar '75) and was the only Canadian finalist in the competition at Guitar '78. He won the grand prize in the 1979 CBC Talent Festival, and in 1985 he became the first North American to win the Andrés Segovia International Guitar Competition. He taught at the Manhattan School of Music in New York in the early 1990s.
Kraft performed with most major Canadian orchestras, including solo performances with the TS, NACO, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and MSO. He performed as a soloist and chamber musician at the Festival of the Sound, Elora Festival, Music at Sharon, and with many other organizations and individuals, including Jeanne Baxtresser, flute, Rosemarie Landry, soprano, Moshe Hammer, violin, and Daniel Domb, cello. His career became increasingly international after 1988. He played as soloist in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, Copenhagen, Antwerp, Dubrovnik, and Prague, where the performances were recorded and broadcast throughout eastern Europe. He also played with the Polish National Radio Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, and in England, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the Far East. He conducted workshops, master classes, and guitar pedagogy seminars across Canada and the USA and has appeared frequently as an adjudicator, including jury positions in 1988 and 1991 for festivals of the Guitar Federation of America and in 1986 for the first Canadian National Guitar Competition, which he also organized. He founded in 1989 and directed the annual Toronto Guitarfest. Kraft was featured at such international festivals as Germany's International Guitar Symposium, as well as at Expo 90 in Japan and Expo 92 in Spain.
Kraft toured Canada several times beginning in 1976, performing 50 to 75 concerts annually in small communities with his wife, the pianist, harpsichordist, and RCMT piano teacher Bonnie Silver, with whom he premiered Michael Horwood's Three Cadenzas in 1981. Kraft premiered R. Murray Schafer'sLe Cri de Merlin and Tippett's The Blue Guitar (both for solo guitar) at Guitar '87 and Schafer's Guitar Concerto with the Toronto Symphony under Andrew Davis in 1990. The bulk of Kraft's repertoire consists of solo guitar pieces from the 17th to 20th centuries in addition to the concerto repertoire and his arrangements and transcriptions (some published by Waterloo and Frederick Harris) of Baroque and later solo and chamber music. Kraft and Silver arranged many works for guitar and harpsichord.
Kraft also compiled and edited a series of graded classical guitar repertoire, the first of its kind in North America, published by Frederick Harris in 1978 as Classical Guitar Editions, officially adopted by the RCMT in 1980, and expanded by the conservatory thereafter. He also contributed original teaching pieces to the series, created a classical guitar technique book to accompany the repertoire, and in 1983 produced cassette recordings of the RCMT guitar repertoire. He continued to teach at the University of Toronto. His writings appeared in various periodicals, including Classical Guitar, Guitar Canada, Soundboard, and Guitar Toronto. His students included Stephen Brown.
Kraft, who built guitars as a hobby, was considered Canada's leading classical guitarist. He was known especially for his wide dynamic range, his varied use of timbre, his expressive lyricism, and his depth of tone. He helped to make the guitar a serious component of classical music-making in Canada. His appearances on national television included a performance in 1979 of the Villa-Lobos concerto with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, and several appearances on the CBC 'Spectrum' series. He performed in 1983 in the CBC radio series 'The Art of the Guitar,' and wrote and hosted other programs on Canadian, UK, and US radio and TV. Kraft's recordings were rewarded with a 1991 Juno nomination (Guitar Music of the 20th Century) and a 1989 Gramophone Magazine Critic's Choice designation. He signed with the Naxos label in the early 1990s, and in 1994 launched the label's Guitar Collection as producer and artistic director. He recorded and produced a series of compact discs of guitar works at the St. John Chrysostom Church in Newmarket, Ont, between 1994 and 1999. Concurrently, he maintained his status as a sought-after performing artist.
'A physiological approach to guitar,' (in 3 parts) Guitar Toronto; vol 3, May 1984; vol 4, Apr 1985; vol 4, May 1985
'Aspect of Technique,' Classical Guitar, Oct 1986
'Rencontre avec Paulino Bernabé,' Les Cahiers de la Guitare et de la Musique 73, 2000