Claude Vivier: A Composer's Life (Eastman Studies in Music)
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Claude Vivier's haunting and expressive music has captivated audiences around the world. But the French-Canadian composer is remembered also because of the dramatic circumstances of his death: he was found murdered in his Paris apartment at the age of thirty-four. Given unrestricted access to Vivier's archives and interviews with Vivier's family, teachers, friends, and colleagues, musicologist and biographer Bob Gilmore tells here the full story of Vivier's fascinating life, from his abandonment as a child in a Montreal orphanage to his posthumous acclaim as one of the leading composers of his generation. Expelled from a religious school at seventeen for "lack of maturity," Vivier gave up his ambition to join the priesthood to study composition. Between 1976 and 1983 Vivier wrote the works on which his reputation rests, including Lonely Child, Bouchara, and the operas Kopernikus and Marco Polo. He was also an outspoken presence in the Montreal arts world and gay scene. Vivier left Quebec for Paris in 1982 to work on a new opera, the composition of which was interrupted by his murder. On his desk was the manuscript of his last work, uncannily entitled "Do You Believe in the Immortality of the Soul." Vivier's is a tragic but life-affirming story, intimately connected to his passionate music. Bob Gilmore was a noted musicologist and performer who taught at Brunel University in London. He wrote or edited five previous books, including Harry Partch: A Biography.
with” the gang of friends that surrounded the charismatic Boudreau: besides Gonneville and Brégent this included fellow Conservatoire composition students Raynald Arseneault, Richard Boucher, and Yves Daoust.29 Boudreau believes the unhappiness he detected in his friend had its origins in his early history. Claude was an abandoned child. All that fucked-up turmoil! He managed for a short while. His genius managed to use this as a kind of catharsis to give us those wonderful pieces of music,
“Claude then didn’t hesitate to modify the tempi, make cuts, etc. I found it quite courageous on the part of a composer of serious music to not hesitate to ‘correct’ one of his works with the passage of some years.”48 The various changes Vivier brought to Prolifération show, as much as anything else, his continuing belief in the piece. They are less a criticism of the first version than an acknowledgment that the new music world had moved on in the interim, and that there was no need for the
die Nacht and six of Pianoforte, including one by Louis Lortie, who won the competition overall with a prize of $3,000. The prize of $350 for the best performance of one of the Vivier pieces went to the then fifteen-year-old Vancouver violinist Gwen Hoebig.24 Besides the four works performed that day, it is not clear whether all of the remaining four short pieces from 1975 were intended for the Tremplin competition. One that surely was is the Pièce pour violoncelle et piano, which was not played
melodic contour of the opening melody of the piece, the right hand, ppp, plays chords made up of selected overtones of each of the bass notes in turn (or, more accurately, approximations of overtones; the seventh or eleventh, in particular, correspond only very approximately to the equal-tempered intonation of the piano).26 From Stockhausen he would have learned to think of these chords as approximating particular formant regions of a complex tone. This passage, as we shall discuss later, is
French music in the department. Vivier’s contract was for a fixed term of seven months, from the beginning of October 1975 to the end of April 1976. He would be paid at an hourly rate of twenty dollars, and was employed for one hundred hours of work in total.30 He took lodgings at 21 rue Stewart, a short walk from the department, although at first he still maintained his Montreal apartment, now 6435 rue Saint Denis #102, and would make frequent commutes between Ottawa and Montreal by bus during