Roger Matton | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Roger Matton

Roger Matton. Composer, teacher, ethnomusicologist, b Granby, Que, 18 May 1929, d Quebec City 7 Jun 2004.

Matton, Roger

Roger Matton. Composer, teacher, ethnomusicologist, b Granby, Que, 18 May 1929, d Quebec City 7 Jun 2004. After studying piano and theory 1941-3 with Sister Yvette Dufault, Matton enrolled at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, where he studied under Claude Champagne (composition), Gabriel Cusson (ear training), Isabelle Delorme (solfège, harmony), and Arthur Letondal (piano). He continued his studies in Paris with Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger (piano) privately in 1950 and 1952-3 at the École normale de musique, and with Nadia Boulanger (analysis, counterpoint, and composition) privately 1952-5. He attended Olivier Messiaen's classes in analysis at the Paris Conservatory in 1950 and again 1953-4. In 1954 he received a scholarship from the Canada Foundation.

Folk Music Studies

On his return to Montreal in 1955 Matton wrote background scores for CBC Radio and TV. At the end of that year he settled permanently in Quebec City. Already alerted to the potential of folk music through his studies with Champagne, he attended a 1956 study and apprenticeship program under Marius Barbeau at the National Museum of Canada (Canadian Museum of Civilization) prior to serving 1956-76 as a researcher and ethnomusicologist at the Archives de folklore of Laval University. Between 1957 and 1959 he transcribed the music of nearly 300 Acadian songs that had been recorded on tape by Dominique Gauthier; 70 were published in Chansons de Shippagan (Archives de folklore, vol 16, Quebec City 1975) with an introduction by Matton. The recordings Acadie et Québec (1959, RCA LCP-1020 and RCA CGP-139) and Documents d'enquête (1974, Cible RQA-2) were produced under his direction. Meanwhile he pursued his activity as a composer, and most of his works, in particular the Concerto for two pianos and percussion, the cantata L'Escaouette, the ballet L'Horoscope (two CBC commissions), and the Te Deum, to some extent show the effect of his long association with folk music.

As Teacher

During these same years he taught at Laval University, first composition (Alain Gagnon was one of his pupils), then the history of contemporary music 1960-3 at the School of Music, and ethnomusicology 1963-89 in the Department of Canadian Studies and in the Department of History.

As Composer

Matton's views on contemporary music were revealed to the critic Marc Samson: 'I write my music to be listened to, not for the sake of putting it down on paper. To this end I call upon auditory memory, within the broadest limits, and upon acoustics. For I believe in the acoustic virtues of music, not in cerebral data' (Quebec City Le Soleil, 19 Dec 1970). Of his Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, dedicated to the duo-pianists Bouchard and Morriset, Serge Garant stated 'its writing is praiseworthy. One discovers aggressiveness, energy and that true lyricism, never maudlin, that so well characterizes his music. Though close to that of Bartók, Matton's music remains traditional. The rhythmic thrust, the pianistic and orchestral writing still belong to the pre-Webernian soundscape' (Journal des Jeunesses musicales du Canada, Jan 1966).

A skilled and resourceful orchestrator, Matton wrote mostly for large instrumental forces. 'His music is characterized by a highly original style, with a vibrant rhythmic capacity, a good sense of symphonic writing, and an idiom which - while entirely modern - retains tonal centres' (Thirty-four Biographies). His Mouvement symphonique II, commissioned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (MSO) for its European tour in 1962, was premiered in Montreal and later played in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev - one of the first symphonic works by a Canadian composer to be performed in the Soviet Union. His monumental Te Deum, though written in 1967 for the inauguration of Quebec City's Grand Théâtre, was performed first at the 65th anniversary of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. It also was given in Europe in 1969 by the choir and orchestra of the Office de la radiodiffusion-télévision française and in 1977 at the 125th anniversary of Laval University. The Te Deum was followed by a seven-year silence, after which the Mouvement symphonique III (commissioned by the Grand Théâtre) was premiered in 1974. The Mouvement symphonique IV was performed in the 1980 concert season of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra and in 1983 by the MSO. In 1984 organist Claude Lagacé premiered his work Tu es Petrus in honour of Pope Jean-Paul II's visit to Quebec City. In his later years Matton was little heard from, due to illness, although his works continued to be performed.

Awards and Recordings

Bouchard and Morisset's recording of Matton's Concerto for two pianos and orchestra won the Prix Pierre-Mercure at the 1966 Festival du disque, Montreal. Matton himself was awarded the Prix de création musicale canadienne at the 1965 Congrès du spectacle, Montreal, and the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1969. He was the recipient in 1975 of the Canada Council's Lynch-Staunton Award. In 1977 he was made an honorary member of the Montreal Elgar Choir, and in 1984 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. The CBC broadcast a documentary on Matton on 8 Sept 1977. Volume 29 of RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music (5-ACM 29), issued in 1987, is devoted to Matton's compositions. More recently, his Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra was recorded by Leslie Kinton, James Anagnoson, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra (CBC Records SMCD 5120). He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers.

Selected Compositions

Danse lente (Gymnopédie). 1947 (Sherbrooke 1947). Chamb orch. Ms

Pax. 1950. Orch. Ms

Mouvement symphonique I. 1960 (Quebec City 1960). Orch. Ric 1978. RCI 454/5-ACM 29 (Quebec Symphony Orchestra)

Mouvement symphonique II (Musique pour un drame). 1962 (Montreal 1962). Och. Ric 1979. RCI 230/RCA LSC-2980/Vic VICS-1040/Mel SMLP-4039/5-ACM 29 (MSO)/Bell 1987 (Conservatoire de musique du Québec Orch)

Mouvement symphonique III. 1974 (Quebec City 1974). Orch. Ms

Mouvement symphonique IV. 1978 (Quebec City 1980). Orch. Ric 1982. 5-ACM 29 (MSO)

See also L'Horoscope.


'J'étais élève de Claude Champagne,' Culture vivante, vol 2, Dec 1968

'Mouvement symphonique no 2 de Roger Matton,' VM, 17, Sep 1970

Soloist(s) and Orchestra

Concerto. 1948 (Montreal 1948). Saxophone, string orch. Ms

L'Escaouette (traditional Acadian themes). 1957 (Montreal 1957). Sop, mezzo, tenor, bar, SATB, Orch. Ms. CBC SMCD-5090 (Orch métropolitain)

Concerto. 1964 (Quebec City 1964). 2 piano, orch. CMCentre. CRI SD-317/Cap SW-6123/5-ACM 29 (V. Bouchard)

Te Deum (F.-A. Savard). 1967 (Quebec City 1967). Bar, SATB, orch, tape. Ms. RCI 290/Sel SSC-24.188/5-ACM 29 (R. Savoie)


Étude. 1946. Cl, piano. Ms

Esquisse. 1949. Str quartet. Ms

Concerto. 1955. 2 piano, percussion. Ms. RCI 145/5-ACM 29 (J. Dufresne)/RCI 442 (D. Morton)


Berceuse. 1945. Pf. Ms. RCI 135/5-ACM 29 (J. Dufresne)

Danse brésilienne. 1946 (rev orch 1971). 2 piano (orch). Dob-Yppan 1986 (2 piano) RCI 145/5-ACM 29 (J. Dufresne)/RCI 442 (D. Morton)

Trois Préludes. 1949. Pf. Dob-Yppan 1985. RCI 135/5-ACM 29 (J. Dufresne)

Suite de Pâques. 1952. Org. Ostiguy 1985. RCI 481 (H. McLean)/5-ACM 29 (Arel)

Tu es Petrus. 1984. Org. Ex Arte 1986. 5-ACM 29 (Arel)

Further Reading