Raynald Arseneault

Raynald Arseneault. Composer, organist, b Quebec City, 9 Jun 1945, d Montreal 27 Jan 1995; premier prix (CMM) 1973, premier prix (Metz Conservatory) 1976.

Arseneault, Raynald

Raynald Arseneault. Composer, organist, b Quebec City, 9 Jun 1945, d Montreal 27 Jan 1995; premier prix (CMM) 1973, premier prix (Metz Conservatory) 1976. Arseneault studied 1968-73 at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal with Gilles Tremblay (composition), Françoise Aubut (organ), and Jean-Louis Martinet (orchestration). He won the Prix d'Europe in 1973 and continued his studies in France where he resided for eight years. He studied 1973-6 at the Metz Conservatory under Claude Lefebvre and in 1976, on completing his studies, received the gold medal of the city of Metz. He also studied with Tony Aubin (composition) and Pierre Cochereau (organ) at the Académie Internationale de Nice; Fernand Vandenbogaerde (electronic music) and Michel Decoust (conducting) at the Pantin Conservatory (Paris), as well as with Claude Ballif, Michel Phillipot and Ivo Mallec (analysis and composition) at the Paris Conservatory. Arseneault also met with Ivan Wyschnegradsky in Paris and Giacinto Scelsi in Rome.

Arseneault composed over 50 works in his short lifetime, having found his mature style early in his career. In 1976, his Quatre Miniatures for large orchestra was premiered by the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Edgar Cosma, while Pâques, commissioned by the Centre européen pour la recherche musicale, was performed as part of the fifth Rencontres internationales de musique contemporaine in Metz. He returned to Montreal in 1981 and was appointed organist at the St-Marc Church in Rosemont in 1984. In 1986 Prélude à l'infini, a CBC commission, was performed by the Belgium-France Radio Philharmonic Orchestra under Simon Streatfeild. The next year Kenneth Currie and the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) Ensemble premiered The Aristocratic Lover, which they had commissioned. In the final years of his life, Arseneault wrote his most poignant works, Chemin de croix (1990) for voice and organ, Sept dernières paroles du Christ en croix (1993) for baritone and organ, and Déploration (sur la mort de Notre-Seigneur-Jésus-Christ) (1993) for organ. He has had works performed by the Orchestre Métropolitain, the SMCQ, Bernard Foccroulle, Michelle Quintal, André Laberge, Louis-Philippe Pelletier, Suzanne Fournier, Carmen Fournier, Michael Laucke, and Lise Daoust. His music has been broadcast by the CBC, and in both Belgium and France.

Most of Arseneault's compositions are spiritual in nature and intuitively composed. Though he started out by using many 20th century techniques, such as in Quatres miniatures pour orchestre (1973, rev 1976), he eventually eschewed the more rigid systems, later remarking that "I try to let my intuition guide me. I'm not looking to be an innovator, though I know that I am. I want my music to have a universal appeal . . ." (Circuit, no. 1, 1977 [trans]). His meeting with Scelsi proved pivotal, leading him to focus on what became the elements of his mature style: sparse textures, slow changes, intricate counterpoint, and ornamentation. Advaya (1980), for instance, has the piano and cello play - with few exceptions - only E-flats, varying the intensity by speed, loudness, and register. Arseneault later began writing Christian works, incorporating chants into his music (mainly as a base for melodic elaboration), as well as modes and ametricality. In his 1992 work, O Salutaris, these are used as the basis of the melodic material and to create a sense of timelessness or eternity.

The Société des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs de musique (SACEM) awarded Arseneault a prize in 1976. The following year, with his wife, the poet Lyette Yergeau, he conducted "Music and Poetry," a symposium organized by the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris. He was artistic advisor at the Maison de la culture Rosemont-Petite Patrie and sat on the board of directors of the SMCQ 1985-95. He was a member of SACEM and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.

Selected Compositions

Stage
Ia, cantata-ballet (C. Cloutier). 1975. Sop, contralto, 2 instr ensemble. Ms

Souvenir d'une chanson d'amour, dramatic scene (based on The Aristocratic Lover). 1989. Vc, piano, voice(s) instr ensemble. Ms

Orchestra

Quatre miniatures. 1973 (rev 1975). Ms

Prélude à l'infini. 1986. Ms

Symphonie. 1988. Ms

Chamber

Concerto de chambre. 1974. Fl, clarinet, harmonium, piano, violin, violoncello, double-bass. Ms

Dunes. 1974. Fl, piano. Ms

Cinque Canzoni. 1976. 4 trombone, organ. Ms

Bonheur. 1978. Fl. Ms

Conte. 1978 (rev 1980). Vn (viola), violoncello. Ms

Folioles I, II. 1979. 2 fl, string quartet. Ms

String Quartet No. 1 'Offrandes'. 1979. Ms

Récit. 1979 (rev 1981). Vn. Ms

Advaya. 1980. Vc, piano. Ms

Monodies rituelles. 1980. Db. Ms

Namo. 1980. Alto saxophone. Ms

String Quartet No. 2. 'Trimurti'. 1980. Ms

Quatres Méditations. 1980. Vn. Ms

RG (Rig) hymnes à Agni. 1980. Vn. Ms

Svastica. 1980. Vn. Ms

Danses de la pleine lune. 1983. Fl, guitar. Ms

Ave Maria. 1991. Voice and guitar

Clair de lune à Pointe-Basse, Îles-de-la-Madeleine. 1992. Mezzo-soprano, 2 ondes martenots, and percussion

O Salutaris. 1992. Mezzo-soprano and organ

L'après (l'Infini). 1993. Flute in G, English horn, piano, percussion and cello

Sept dernières paroles du Christ en croix. Baritone and organ. 1993

Choir or Voice

Pâques (L. Yergeau). 1976. Narr, brass quintet, organ, percussion. Ms

The Aristocratic Lover (based on a song by Kenneth Currie). 1987. V, piano (guitar), chorus, instr ensemble. Ms

'Alleluia,' and 'Ancres d'encre'. (C. Cloutier). 1989. V, piano. Ms

Chemin de croix (M.L. Gatthas). 1990. Sop, narrator, organ. Ms

Keyboard

Ode sur la mort d'un ami. 1969 (rev l988). Org. Ms

Sonate. 1973 (rev 1979). Pf. Ms

Deux Etudes. 1976. Pf. Ms

Receueil. 1977. Pf. Ms

Quatre petits préludes. 1978. Pf (harpsichord or organ). Ms

Trois nocturnes. 1979. Pf. Ms

Adoro te. 1990. Organ

Déploration (sur la mort de Notre-Seigneur-Jésus-Christ). 1993. Organ. Ms


Further Reading

  • Proulx, Michelle. 'Words about music,' Musicanada, 32, May 1977

    Filion, Sylvain-Claude. "Arseneault awaits recordings," Canadian Composer, Spring 1991

    "In Memoriam Raynald Arseneault," Bulletin de LAUDM [L'Association des organistes du Diocèse de Montréal], Spring 1995

    Caron, Sylvain. 'Raynald Arseneault: une musique pour l'âme,' Circuit, vol 8:1, 1997