Claude Vivier | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Claude Vivier

Claude Vivier, composer (born 14 April 1948 in Montreal; died 12 March 1983 in Paris, France). He studied 1967-71 at the CMM with Gilles Tremblay (composition) and Irving Heller (piano). His first publicly performed works - a String Quartet in two movements and Ojikawa for soprano, clarinet and percussion (1986), as well as Prolifération (1969) - attracted the attention of the public and the critics. 
Vivier, Claude

Assisted by a Canada Council grant, he lived in Europe (1971-4), principally in Holland, where he studied at the Institute for Sound Research in Utrecht with Gottfried Michael Koenig. In Germany his teachers were Karlheinz Stockhausen and Hans Ulrich Humpert, and in France he studied conducting with Paul Méfano, among others. These years of study in Europe were notable for the writing of such compositions as Musik für das Ende(1971) and Désintégration (1972) which indicated a more solid craft of writing and a rich temperament, all while displaying his preoccupation with those themes which would become favourites, death, childhood, love and immortality. Vivier's compositions were performed during those years in Paris, Cologne, and Darmstadt.

His works which date from the period of his return to Montreal in 1974, such as Chants (1973), Lettura di Dante (1974), andseveral others, demonstrate his acquisition of a more flexible writing technique, and a more assertive personality. He was interested particularly in writing for the voice. The texts that he used were often written in an invented language. His treatment of the voice provided a means of expression capable of translating his spiritual preoccupations. His growing reputation brought him numerous commissions from reputable organizations such as the SMCQ (Liebesgedichte), the Festival Singers (Journal), the NYO (Siddhartha), the French Ministry of Culture (Chants), the Canadian Music Competitions (works for various instruments), the NMC (Zipangu), the Faculty of Music of the U de Montréal (Kopernikus), the CBC VancouverChamber Orchestra (Lonely Child), the CBC (Wo bist du Licht!), for the Paul-Gilson Prize (Prologue pour un Marco Polo), and the MSO (Orion).

Fascinated by the music of the Orient, Vivier undertook a long trip to several countries in 1977, principally to the island of Bali for a lengthy stay. This trip inspired several works and, on his return, he composed Pulau Dewata, Paramirabo and Shiraz. This visit marked all of his later work, and he preserved an indelible memory of Bali. In 1979 he wrote the opera Kopernikus, to his own libretto. The work was premiered at the Monument national in 1980.

1n 1980 two of his most successful works were also premiered, Lonely Child for soprano and chamber orchestra, and Zipangu for string orchestra. After composing Wo bist du Licht on a commission from the CBC, he returned to Paris in 1982 on a Canada Council grant. He had undertaken the composition of a second opera at the time of his tragic death by murder at the age of 34. He had just finished a work, Trois airs pour un opéra imaginaire, commissioned by Itinéraire, performed at a posthumous recital at the Centre Georges-Pompidou, and performed again in Berlin in 1988. He also left another unfinished work, Crois-tu en l'immortalité de l'âme, which had its world premiere in Montreal in the spring of 1990.

On the subject of Vivier's work, the critic and musicologist Harry Halbreich has written the following: 'His music really resembles no other, and he puts himself right on the fringe of all trends. His music, of a direct and disruptive expression, could bewilder only those hard-hearted people who are unfit to categorize this independent man of genius. Claude Vivier found what so many others have sought for, and still seek: the secret of a truly new simplicity' (Harmonie-Panorama Musique, April 1983). Vivier was named composer of the year by the Canadian Music Council in 1981. Volume 36 of RCI's collection Anthology of Canadian Music, issued on CD in 1990 (4-ACM 36), is devoted to him. His status as an associate composer is maintained by the Canadian Music Centre. In 1983 the society Les Amis de Claude Vivier was founded in Montreal; its goals are to promote the publication and the distribution of his compositions and writings.

Selected Compositions

  • Love Songs. ballet. 1977; 7 voices. Ms.
  • Nanti malam ballet. 1977; 7 voices. Ms.


A list of Vivier's writings, including the texts of his works for voice(s), has been published in the periodical Circuit, Nov 1991.


  • Lonely Child (Silverfilm 1988)


  • Siddhartha. 1976. Ms. Centredisques CMC-3188/4-ACM 36 (O métropolitain).
  • Orion. 1979. Dob-Yppan 1990; CBC SMCD-5106 (O métropolitain).
  • Zipangu. 1980; string orch; Dob-Yppan 1985; Dob-Yppan DO-99 et 4-ACM 36 (I Musici de Montreal).

Soloist(s) and Orchestra

  • Lonely Child. 1980. soprano, orch; Sala 1980; Centredisques CMC-1384/4-ACM 36 (M.-D. Parent).
  • Prologue pour un Marco Polo (P. Chamberland, Vivier). 1981. 5 voices, spks, percussion, 6 clarinet, stgs; Sala 1981. RCI 626/4-ACM 36 (P. Vaillancourt).
  • Wo bist du Licht! (Vivier). 1981. Mezzo, percussion, 20 stgs, tape. Ms.
  • Trois airs pour un opéra imaginaire. 1982. soprano, bass, piccolo (fl), 2 clarinet, horn, stgs, percussion. Ms.


  • String Quartet No. 1. 1968. Ms.
  • Prolifération. 1968 or 1969 (rev 1976); ondes M, piano, percussion. Ms. RCI 358/4-ACM 36 (SMCQ).
  • Deva et Asura. 1972. 15 winds, 5 stgs. Ms.
  • Désintégration. 1974. 2 piano, 4 violin, 2 viola. Ms.
  • Improvisation pour basson et piano. 1975. Ms.
  • Pièce pour flûte et piano. 1975. Dob-Yppan 1985. RCI 535/4-ACM 36 (L. Daoust).
  • Pièce pour violoncelle et piano. 1975; Dob-Yppan 1986. Dob-Yppan DO-99/-ACM 36 (L.-P. Pelletier).
  • Pièce pour violon et piano. 1975. Dob-Yppan 1986. Dob-Yppan DO-99 (L.-P. Pelletier p).
  • Pour guitare. 1975. Dob-Yppan 1987.
  • Pour violon et clarinette. 1975. Dob-Yppan 1985. 1984. Centredisques CMC-2085 (Grinhauz violin, Dumouchel clarinet).
  • Learning. 1976. 4 violin, percussion. Ms.
  • Pulau Dewata. 1977. Perc ensemble or combination of instr. Ms. RCI 478/4-ACM 36 (Béluse), Centredisques CMC-1384 (ARRAY)/SNE 515 (Boudreau)/SNE 574 (J. Laurendeau).
  • Paramirabo. 1978. Fl, violin, violoncello, piano. Dob-Yppan 1988. Dob-Yppan DO-99/ 4-ACM 36 (L.Daoust).
  • Cinq Chansons pour percussion. 1980. Dob-Yppan 1988; (1988); Dob-Yppan DO-99/4-ACM 36 (D. Kent).
  • Et je reverrai cette ville étrange. 1981; trumpet, al, violoncello, double-bass, piano, percussion. Ms. Artifact Music ART-002 (ARRAY).
  • Samarkand. 1981. Wind quintet, piano. Ms.

Choir or Voice

  • Ojikawa (Bible, Vivier). 1968. Sop, clarinet, percussion. Ms.
  • Hiérophanie (hymne grec). 1971. Sop, 2 percussion, winds. Ms.
  • Musik für das Ende (Vivier). 1971. 20 voices, percussion. Ms.
  • Chants (Vivier). 1973. 7 female voices. Éd. musicales transatlantiques 1975. Nocturnales CCL-33-131/4-ACM 36 (L. Vaillancourt).
  • 'O! Kosmos' (Vivier). 1974. SATB. Chanteclair 1977.
  • 'Jesus erbarme Dich' (Kyrie eleison). 1974. SATB. Chanteclair 1977; CBC Musica Viva MVCD-1039 (Tudor Singers of Mtr).
  • Lettura di Dante (La Divine Comédie). 1974; soprano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, viola, percussion. CMCentre publication in Québec 1979. Dob-Yppan 1987. RCI 411/ 4-ACM 36 (SMCQ).
  • 'Hymnen an die Nacht' (Novalis). 1975. Sop, piano. Dob-Yppan 1986. RCI 631/4-ACM 36 (P. Vaillancourt).
  • Liebesgedichte (Virgile, Psaume de David, Vivier). 1976. vocal quartet, winds. Ms.
  • Journal (Vivier, Novalis, L. Carroll). 1977. 4 voices, SATB, percussion. Ms.
  • A Little Joke (Vivier). 1981. SATB. manuscript.
  • Bouchara (Vivier). 1981. soprano, wind quintet, stg quintet, percussion. Ms.
  • Crois-tu en l'immortalité de l'âme. 1983. SATB, 3 synthesizer, 2 percussion. Ms.


  • Pianoforte. 1975. Dob-Yppan 1985. RCI 625/4-ACM 36 (L.-P. Pelletier).
  • Shiraz. 1977. Sala 1987. Centredisques CMC-1384/RCI 584/4-ACM 36 (L.-P. Pelletier).
  • Also Les Communiantes for organ (1977), recorded by Pierre Bousseau on Qualiton ADDA-581240, as well as Variation and Hommage, musique pour un vieux Corse triste (1972) for tape