An accompanying press release declares that Vivier is “commonly thought to be the most important composer Canada has yet produced.”
Presumably B&H isn’t trying to damn Vivier with faint praise – after taking the trouble to publish his complete oeuvre, and also this handsome trilingual catalogue. But I fear this press release may have missed its mark. Seeing as the wider world shows little interest in Canadian music, telling people that Vivier is the best among a group of composers they aren’t much interested in may not be the best way to sell his work.
And that, I believe, is what makes the few Canadian composers whom the world has at least noticed, such as Vivier, stand out from the rest of the pack. The problem with most Canadian composers is not that their work is not good enough, but that it often lacks distinctiveness and a clear personal stamp. Vivier had these qualities in spades.
I’m certainly not fond of everything Vivier wrote: I find some of his works opaque and impenetrable – as though he were writing letters to himself in an elaborate code that only he could understand. But when Vivier opened his soul to the world, a dazzling and compelling flood of music poured out.
If you’d like to know more about this remarkable composer and his music, click here. And below, you’ll find a YouTube video of a Vivier piece I like very much: his Lonely Child, from 1980.
© Colin Eatock 2012