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Jean Papineau-Couture: Biography

Jean Papineau-Couture
1916 - 2000
Region: Québec

Jean Papineau-Couture

JEAN PAPINEAU-COUTURE, descendant of two of the founding families of Québec, and one of the fathers of contemporary music in Canada, was born in Outremont, Québec on November 12, 1916. After musical studies in Montréal, he obtained his Bachelor of Music in composition in 1941 from the New England Conservatory where he took courses with Nadia Boulanger and met Stravinsky several times.

He began teaching in Québec starting in 1945 at the Montréal Conservatory and then, at the Faculty of Music of the University of Montréal where he was professor, assistant dean and finally, dean, retiring in 1985. He pioneered the development of a course on music accoustics and taught a generation of composers including Jacques Hétu, François Morel and André Prévost.

Stylistically he evolved gradually from polymodal, polytonal neo-classicism toward total atonal chromaticism. He showed deep interest in the colour of different sonorities. Metric freedom and rhythmic force are integrated in subtle ways to support clearly characterized melodic materials. Robert Everett-Green described Papineau-Couture as "one of the most technically proficient Canadian composers of his generation."

Papineau-Couture was a tireless promoter and encourager of contemporary Canadian music. He was one of the founding members of the Canadian Music Centre, served as president of the Canadian Music Council, and was president and founder of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec.

Papineau-Couture has received many distinctions. He was invested as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1969, and made a companion of the order (its highest rank) in 1984. He was awarded the Canadian Music Council medal, the Prix Denise Pelletier, the title of Grand Officier of the Ordre du Québec in 1989, and in 1994 received the Governor-General’s Performing Arts Award.

Following a presentation of his recent works at the Toronto Music Gallery on the occasion of his 70th birthday he was described in the Globe & Mail as "a self-propelling force, not at all ready to be consigned to the file folder at the Canadian Music Centre." Papineau-Couture died at the age of 83 in August 2000.



This year marks his hundredth anniversary of birth (1916-2016) with the recording of four string quartets (one unpublished) released on ATMA label and performed by the Molinari Quartet .


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