Claude Vivier

Last updated: February 8, 2019

When Quebec composer Claude Vivier was murdered in his Paris apartment at the age of 34, he was already highly regarded as one of Canada’s most important composers. Since that time Vivier’s reputation has taken on almost mythic proportions, and his music continues to be performed with a regularity seldom seen in contemporary composers. Following the announcement of Vivier’s death, critic and musicologist Harry Halbreich wrote in Harmonie-Panorama Musique that “his music really resembles no other, and he puts himself right on the fringe of all trends. His music, of a direct and disruptive expression, could bewilder only those hard-hearted people who are unfit to categorize this independent man of genius. Claude Vivier found what so many others have sought for, and still seek: the secret of a truly new simplicity.”


            Vivier studied in Montreal, then in Holland, France and Germany. A deep affection for Asian cultures led him to an extended stay in Bali, whose music influenced his own. A fascination with plainchant deriving from his Catholic upbringing and an abiding concern with death and immortality also colored his music. At the time of his own death he was writing a choral piece called Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele? (Do you believe in the immortality of the soul?)

-By Robert Markow

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