Until his sudden and tragic death in 1983 at the age of 35, the French-Canadian composer Claude Vivier was an utterly original voice in new music. Even what is left to us has continued to be hugely influential on successive generations of composers who seek to explore the sounds at the edge of the notes and between them, who search for new sounds on old instruments and new forms in familiar places.
His ensemble pieces such as Zipangu and Bouchara have become repertoire works for important new-music groups, but his chamber music is still little known, if no less individual. The present release will therefore attract all new-music enthusiasts, with its carefully prepared performances of five works dating from his artistic maturity.
Vivier enrolled at the Conservatoire de musique in Montreal in 1967. Gilles Tremblay, student of Olivier Messiaen, became his most important teacher. Studies at the legendary summer schools in Darmstadt, artistic nursery to a generation of avant-garde artists, and in particular with Karlheinz Stockhausen, enabled Vivier to find and refine his own voice. After writing the Piece for cello and piano, and the Pianoforte for solo piano in 1975, he undertook a pivotal journey to Asia, exploring the cultures of Bali and Indonesia, which would inform the rest of his output. Thus Pulau Dewarta, from 1977, heard here in an arrangement for piano and percussion, is unmistakably coloured by gamelan sounds. From the following year dates Paramirabo, the last and most recent work on the album, is scored for flute, Violin, cello and piano, exploring similiarly exotic harmonies and timbres to Zipangu and Pulau Dewarta, but with the instruments mostly operating in rhythmic unison.
Based in the Netherlands, the instrumentalists on this album are all experienced new-music soloists who have worked with many of today’s most distinguished composers as members of the ASKO/Schönberg Ensemble, Ensemble Modern, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen as well as the Nieuw Ensemble of Amsterdam.
Claude Vivier (1948-1983) started his life in a Canadian orphanage. His adopting parents destined him for a position in the Catholic church, but he abandoned this vocation and entered the Conservatory of Montreal where Gilles Tremblay was his teacher, he himself a pupil of Messiaen. He moved to Europe where he studied with Stockhausen, Pousseur and Ligeti. Under the influence of the interest in exotic countries and cultures he visited Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Iran and other countries, in quest of new musical languages and philosophies. His own style, though influenced by other composers, resembles no other, he strived for the ultimate simplicity and truth. In 1983 he was stabbed to death in Paris by a 20-year old man, whom he had picked up in the streets.
This recording contains works for piano solo, cello and piano and a small ensemble of flute, violin, cello and percussion. The music is vibrant, colourful and hypnotic in its exotic musical language.
Excellent liner notes are included in the booklet.