Claude Vivier was born to unknown parents in Montreal and adopted at the age of three by a poor French-Canadian family. From the age of thirteen, he attended boarding schools run by the Marist Brothers, a religious order that prepared young boys for a vocation in the priesthood. The young Vivier's religious inclinations were supplanted by a love of modern poetry and music. At the age of eighteen, Vivier was asked to leave the novitiate and the following year enrolled in the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal, where his main teacher was the composer Gilles Tremblay. His earliest works date from this period.

In 1971, he began a period of three years' study in Europe, first at the Institute for Sonology in Utrecht, and then in Cologne with Karlheinz Stockhausen. Vivier learned much from Stockhausen, and his early works have aspects that are clearly, and sometimes audibly, derivative of his teacher, even though his later works bear little audible resemblance. In 1974, he returned to Montreal and began to establish his reputation. Early works like Lettura di Dante were performed with some success at the concerts of the SMCQ. In autumn 1976, he undertook a long trip to the East, notably to Japan and Bali. The music he encountered there had a profound effect on him. Subsequent compositions like Pulau Dewata show the impact quite audibly, but in later works the influence has been digested and goes much deeper.

Vivier's opera Kopernikus, to his own libretto, was premièred on 8 May 1980, at the Monument-National in Montreal. By that time he had begun to compose in a somewhat different manner, influenced by the techniques of French spectral music, and was notably influenced by Gérard Grisey and Tristan Murail. One of the first of the works in this new manner, Lonely Child (1980) for soprano and orchestra, has become his best-known work. This and other late scores of Vivier, including Prologue pour un Marco Polo and Wo bist du Licht! were intended for inclusion in an unfinished "opéra fleuve" entitled Rêves d'un Marco Polo.

In June 1982, with the help of a Canada Council grant, Vivier left Montreal for Paris, where he began work on an opera based on the death of Tchaikovsky. In March the following year, he was stabbed to death by a young Parisian man who may have been a prospective lover and who was later caught and sentenced. His last work was the unfinished Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele, which contains a disturbing premonition of his death.


Jordan Hall at New England Conservatory | November 20, 2011

News and Press

[Concert Review] BMOP opens season with a fancinating array of Canadian music

Geographically, Canada is not that far away from Boston. Some of the Canadian music heard Sunday afternoon at Jordan Hall, however, sounded like it was coming from a much greater distance.

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project began its subscription season Sunday with "True North," featuring four composers with ties to our neighbor country. Conductor Gil Rose led his solid ensemble in works by Kati Agócs, Colin McPhee, Michael Colgrass and Claude Vivier, which may not have uncovered any cohesive national identity, but certainly offered much artistic creativity and informed musicianship.

Boston Classical Review Full review
[News Coverage] Rose, BMOP set to launch season with a spotlight on Canadian composers

"It's funny. When it started, I really thought that after a while it would change," says Gil Rose, artistic director of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

"It's been fifteen years, and producing concerts and making recordings has become an always and forever state. It's fun for me personally, but I really thought that it would get easier over time."

Boston Classical Review Full review
[Press Release] BMOP Salutes Canadian Composers at its Season Opening Concert

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), the nation's premier orchestra dedicated exclusively to commissioning, performing, and recording new orchestral music, kick-starts its 2011-12 season with a nod to our friendly neighbor to the North, Canada. Paying homage to some of Canada's top composers, BMOP is slated to perform: Vessel by Kati Agocs; Symphony No. 2 by Colin McPhee; Letter from Mozart by Michael Colgrass; and Orion by Claude Vivier.

Full review