Arthur LeBlanc was born in 1906 in Saint-Anselme, now a district of Dieppe. His father, a violin maker and teacher, gave him his first lessons along with his first violin at the age of three. The museum of the University of Moncton has two violins made by Joseph LeBlanc for his son. At five he was acclaimed a prodigy by the critics, and he gave his first concert at the age of 10 at the Moncton Opera House. He studied 1914-23 at the Séminaire de Québec, where members of the clergy helped to defray his expenses.
Father Pierre-Chrysologue Desrochers (who conducted the orchestra at the seminary) and the violinist Joseph-Alexandre Gilbert helped launch his career, and he gave five public concerts early in 1921, including one to the members of the Club musical and another as soloist of the Société symphonique (Quebec Symphony Orchestra). A pupil of Gilbert, he was one of the first to enrol at the School of Music at Laval University in 1922. Rejoining his family in Boston in 1923, he toured New England with the singer Désiré Bourque, and then studied at the New England Cons for two years with Richard Burgin, concertmaster of the Boston SO, and with Felix Winternitz. He also studied in New York with Bernard Sinsheimer.
On a Quebec government grant in 1930, LeBlanc studied at the École normale de Paris with Georges Enesco, Maurice Hayot, and Jacques Thibaud. While a member of the orchestra there he performed as a soloist under Cortot. In 1934 he passed his performance examination with great distinction, earning an extensive tour during which he played in Liège, Basel, Geneva, Lausanne, and Le Havre. He was a member of the first violins in the Paris SO during the 1935-6 season under Pierre Monteux.
LeBlanc returned to Canada in 1938 and performed the Brahms Concerto 3 Feb 1939 with the Concerts symphoniques de Montréal. That May he made his debut at Town Hall, New York, and in July and November he appeared at Carnegie Hall. He joined the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in 1939. He is acclaimed by critics after a concert in New York. He signed an important contract with Columbia Records. In all, he gives more than 300 recitals in the United States and even performs at the White House on December 7, 1941 at the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In 1938 LeBlanc acquired a Guadagnini instrument, which he broke in an unfortunate accident in 1941 just before a recital in Quebec City. A public subscription in 1946, to which the Sorel businessman and patron Ludger Simard had generously contributed, allowed him to buy the 1733 Stradivarius called ‘Des Rosiers’ after the Lyons family who had owned it for more than 100 years. This violin and another instrument “the Stanley” were stolen from LeBlanc’s home on île d’Orléans in 1975, but fortunately recovered several weeks later.
The Stradivarius, sold to the family of violinist Angèle Dubeau in 1977, was the subject of a court action in 1986 by the Simard heirs who claimed ownership. The following year the Superior Court of Quebec acknowledged the Dubeau family as the rightful owner of the instrument. In 2013, Dubeau maintained ownership and continued to play the instrument which she named “Arthur”. LeBlanc had also acquired the Tourte bow given to Wieniawski by the Austrian emperor.
Illness forced him to end his career in the 1960s. In 1982, the Université de Moncton awarded him an honorary doctorate in music. Arthur LeBlanc died in 1985.
In 1987, LeBlanc’s name was given to a mountain east of Chicoutimi. A string quartet named after LeBlanc affiliated with University of Moncton, was founded in 1985. In 1988, with support from the U of Moncton, the NB government, the Canada Council and the CBC the Quatuor Arthur-LeBlanc was officially formed, and in 2013 continued an active professional career.
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