The Composers and their Music

Hui

Hui was born in Hong Kong in 1966, raised in Vancouver, and now lives in Montréal. This minimalist piece was written and first performed in 1995, co-commissioned by the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and the National Arts Centre.

Inner Voices explores the timbre of instruments as ‘fields of colour' that intersect and are presented simultaneously with each other, similar to some abstract paintings without perspective. Note the layering of these ‘fields of colour' as they are juxtaposed upon one another, sometimes creating harmony, but existing as parallel ideas. Listen for the variation of rhythms within the colour fields, and changes within the instrumental colours used.

Photo of composer Melissa Hui

Portrait of composer Melissa Hui

Garant

Garant lived from 1929-1986, and was a Québec composer, conductor, pianist, teacher and critic. From an early age, he learned to play the clarinet and piano, and was particularly attracted to jazz. He played clarinet with the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, the saxophone with various jazz groups and later studied composition with composers in various parts of the world. In Québec, Garant, as a leading Canadian musician, vigorously promoted 20th century music and contemporary creative musicians.

Plages, Garant's final work, was commissioned by the Youth Orchestra of Québec, written and premiered in 1981, and conducted by the composer. It is a single movement work in five sections plus coda, and represents bands (plages) of musical time and orchestral colour, and can be compared to paintings that consist of bands of different colours. Note the frequent use of bands of silence.

Photo of composer Serge Garant

Portrait of composer Serge Garant

Brott

Brott lived from 1915 to 2005 in Montréal and was a conductor, violinist, composer and teacher. When his successful career as a solo violinist ended because of a hand injury, he focused on composing and conducting. Brott guest-conducted most of the symphony orchestras in Canada, and many other orchestras around the world.

From the perspective of over six decades of creative activity, his work may be viewed as an immense kaleidoscope of changing forms and colours, an aspect which may well constitute one of its chief attractions. The Canadian Music Encyclopedia

Brott based his composition, Circle, Triangle, Four Squares, on a piece of artwork that his nine year old son Denis brought home from school. Brott began by tracing over the shapes on a piece of graph paper, then assigning musical notes to the different shapes in the drawing. Denis' artwork hung on Brott's dining room wall for many years. Circle, Triangle, Four Squares is a work in three short movements, and was premiered by the McGill Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Brott himself.

Photo of composer Alexander Brott

Portrait of composer Alexander Brott

Mercure

Mercure was born in Montréal in 1927; and died in a traffic accident in France in 1966. He was a composer, bassoonist, TV producer and administrator. The integration of the creative media (i.e., a combination of theatre, music, dance, painting, and sculpture) was the axis around which Pierre Mercure's life and work revolved. Claude Champagne introduced Mercure to French music and developed his talents in orchestration. Kaleidoscope was written in 1948, and Mercure revised the work in 1950 and again in 1960 for medium and full orchestras. Kaleidoscope is a study of changing symmetrical patterns of orchestral colour, as if we are looking into the tube of a kaleidoscope. Even though this was a very early work in Mercure's composing life, Kaleidoscope demonstrates a mastery of the orchestral palette, and it has been frequently played in concerts since its premiere.

Photo of composer Pierre Mercure

Portrait of composer Pierre Mercure

Gellman

Gellman, born in Toronto in 1947, was writing music at the early age of 9, and began comprehensive studies in theory, composition and piano two years later. By the time he was 15, Gellman had performed his own piano concerto with the CBC Symphony Orchestra. His studies in composition continued through 1973-6, when Gellman worked with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory. Since returning to Canada in 1976, Gellman has been a professor at the University of Ottawa.

Deux Tapisseries was commissioned by the Government of France to honour the 70th birthday of Gellman's mentor, Messiaen. It was originally scored for an orchestral ensemble: 5 woodwinds, 5 brass, harp, piano/celesta, 2 percussion players and double bass. In 1980, Gellman orchestrated the work for full orchestra, and Deux Tapisseries was premiered in Canada by the National Arts Centre Orchestra with Mario Bernardi conducting. The two movements are: Tapisserie du crépuscule/Twilight Tapestry and Tapisserie d'éclair/Lightning Tapestry. Both pieces are composed by weaving together musical rhythms, harmonies, motifs, to depict a ‘mindscape' much as a visual tapestry has been woven to create a visual ‘landscape'.

Photo of composer Steven Gellman

Portrait of composer Steven Gellman

Credits and Copyright

  • Image asset: Melissa Hui
    Wim Jansen
  • Image asset: Serge Garant
    Canadian Music Centre
  • Image asset: Alexander Brott
    Brottmusic.com
  • Image asset: Pierre Mercure
    Canadian Music Centre
  • Image asset: Steven Gellman
    Leonard Burnstein

Garant lived from 1929-1986, and was a Québec composer, conductor, pianist, teacher and critic. From an early age, he learned to play the clarinet and piano, and was particularly attracted to jazz. He played clarinet with the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, the saxophone with various jazz groups and later studied of composition with composers in various parts of the world. In Québec, Garant, as a leading Canadian musician, vigorously promoted 20th century music and contemporary creative musicians.

Plages, Garant's final work, was commissioned by the Youth Orchestra of Québec, written and premiered in 1981, and conducted by the composer. It is a single movement work in five sections plus coda, and represents bands (plages) of musical time and orchestral colour, and can be compared to paintings that consist of bands of different colours. Note the frequent use of bands of silence.

Virtual Museum of Canada

To access the Virtual Museum of Canada's complete digital learning resources and lesson plans, visit the VMC Teachers' Centre.