The Composers and their Music

Linda Bouchard

French-Canadian composer Linda Bouchard has had a distinguished career as composer and conductor, including a period as the Composer-in-Residence for the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Exquisite Fires was premiered by that orchestra in 1993. The music was inspired by medieval romances, but does not tell a story.

Bouchard writes:

From the start I wanted to compose a Suite of contrasting movements, short movements but whole, each one distinct and extreme in its character. My goal was to play with orchestral colours in the most dramatic way. At the time I was reading Medieval Love Myths – there it was, a source of inspiration that allowed for excesses....These stories were filled with magical, passionate images: knights worthy, brave and fierce, love potions....These stories created the spirit of Exquisite Fires. (From the introduction to the score, unpublished manuscript, Canadian Music Centre collection)

Portrait of composer Linda Bouchard

Portrait of composer Linda Bouchard

Oskar Morawetz

Morawetz (1917-2007) was born in what is now the Czech Republic and came to Canada in 1941. He had a distinguished career as a composer and died in Toronto. This short piece is one of the most popular Canadian orchestral compositions, and was first performed in 1957. The music does not follow the storyline of a particular fairy tale but instead evokes characteristics typical of any fairy tale. Morawetz describes the exposition as containing three types of themes: elfin, mysterious and gay/dance-like. These themes evolve through the use of orchestral colours, different rhythmic combinations, and by being combined with each other. The music becomes menacing, then very quiet and gentle. Finally the coda builds to a joyful ending.

Photo of composer Oskar Morawetz

Portrait of composer Oskar Morawetz

Gary Kulesha

Kulesha is a distinguished Canadian composer, conductor and pianist who has been associated with most of the country's major orchestras, including the National Arts Centre Orchestra where he was the lead composer for the Young Composer Programme in 2009.

Of the Boughs of Music, Kulesha writes:

The title is taken from a line from The Waves (1931) by Virginia Woolf. For me, this is the most beautiful novel in the English language. It is a set of interior monologues from six characters, following them through their lives from birth to death. The complete line is given to Rhoda, and comes as the characters are entering their post-middle-age years: ‘I parted the boughs of music and saw the house we have made …' There is an autumnal strength in this, a suggestion of both the sadness of time passing and the satisfaction of having lived a productive life, which speaks to me very clearly as I enter my 50s. It is serendipitous that the line specifically refers to music.

Photo of composer Gary Kulesha

Portait of composer Gary Kulesha

Violet Archer

Violet Archer, a prolific and very successful Canadian composer, was born in Montréal and died in Ottawa. This twelve-minute piece was written in 1964 for the Edmonton Symphony in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. Archer was inspired by the fairyland world of A Midsummer Night's Dream as so many other composers have been. The music has two sections – a fast prelude followed by a slow incantation section. The two parts share some melodic and harmonic ideas, tying them together thematically. Archer specifically directed the listeners to Shakespeare's three fairy poems reproduced here as the source of her inspiration.

Portrait of composer Violet Archer

Portrait of composer Violet Archer

Robert Turner

Robert Turner was born in Montréal and was a professor of composition at the University of Manitoba. His works have been performed by every major Canadian orchestra. In this composition for viola, reciter, and orchestra seven poems by Canadian poets are spoken rather than sung over the music. The poets include Barry McKinnon, Anne Marriott, George Johnston, Anne Wilkinson, Raymond Souster and Earle Birney, whose contribution is reproduced here, while the poems move thematically in a full circle from winter to summer. The final setting of "On the Rouge" by Raymond Souster leaves the listener full of warmth and nostalgia.

Photo of composer Robert Turner

Portrait of composer Robert Turner

Credits and Copyright

  • Image Asset: Linda Bouchard
    Daniel Hayes
  • Image Asset: Oskar Morawetz
    Arnold Matthews
  • Image Asset: Gary Kulesha
  • Image Asset: Violet Archer
    Canadian Music Centre
  • Image Asset: Robert Turner

Virtual Museum of Canada

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