Alex Pauk | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Alex Pauk

Alex (Alexander Peter) Pauk. Composer, conductor, teacher, b Toronto 4 Oct 1945; B MUS (Toronto) 1970, B ED (Toronto) 1971.

Alex Pauk

Alex (Alexander Peter) Pauk. Composer, conductor, teacher, b Toronto 4 Oct 1945; B MUS (Toronto) 1970, B ED (Toronto) 1971. Alexander Pauk was a founding member of ARRAY in 1971 and attended the Ontario Arts Council's student conductors' workshop 1970-2 under Karel Ančerl, Ernesto Barbini, Victor Feldbrill, and Boyd Neel. He studied conducting further 1972-3 at the Toho Gakuen School of Music in Tokyo, then settled in Vancouver. He founded the short-lived (1973-4) Array West and in 1974 helped to found its successor, Days Months and Years to Come (Magnetic Band), a similar group of composer-musicians of which he was music director and conductor 1974-9. He taught 1973-5 at the Courtenay Youth Music Centre and conducted a recording of Harry Freedman's Klee Wyck with the BC Summer Youth Orchestra there in 1974 (2-CYMC EPN-208). Pauk also taught at the Vancouver Community College 1974-8 and conducted the Vancouver Youth Orchestra 1974-8. He was named Vancouver's Musician of the Year by the Sun in 1975. He also conducted and taught 1974-80 for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

Alex Pauk studied 1978-9 in Europe on a Canada Council grant. Upon his return, he settled in Toronto, where he concentrated on composing full-time, for both concerts and film.


In 1983 Alex Pauk became the founding music director and conductor of the Esprit Orchestra. In 1984 he was co-chair for the ISCM World Music Days held in Toronto and Montreal, and in 1986 he was music director and conductor of the Satori Festival of new Canadian music held in Winnipeg.

By 2008, as conductor of the Esprit Orchestra, Pauk had commissioned and conducted the premieres of more than 70 Canadian works by composers young and old working in a wide variety of aesthetics. These include works by Glenn Buhr, Brian Current, Harry Freedman, Paul Frehner, Chris Paul Harman, Alexina Louie, Yannick Plamondon, John Rea, and R. Murray Schafer, among many others. Pauk has also conducted many Canadian premieres, including those of works by John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Gyorgy Ligeti, Alfred Schnittke, and Toru Takemitsu. In 1997 Pauk conducted Schafer's Patria, Princess of the Stars with Esprit on Wildcat Lake in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve. He also conducted concert versions of the operas Dream Play by Timothy Sullivan and The Summoning of Everyman by Charles Wilson in 2004.

Alex Pauk has also fostered new music in Toronto through educational initiatives such as Esprit's Towards a Living Art, an increasing use of multidisciplinary elements in his concerts, and a willingness to work in non-standard concert spaces, such as the CN Tower. He has taken Esprit on several tours, notably to Calgary for the 1988 Olympic Arts Festival, to Western Canada in 1998, to the International Gaudeamus Music Week in the Netherlands in 1999, and to the Montreal/New Music International Festival in 2005. He also conducted the orchestra in six recordings for CBC Records and in two film soundtracks, the first of music from Atom Egoyan's films (composed by Mychael Danna) and the second of Pauk's and Louie's score for Don McKellar 's Last Night (1998).

Alex Pauk has appeared as guest conductor with the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Hannaford Street Silver Band, and the Cologne Radio Symphony and Chorus, and for the Vancouver New Music Society and New Music Concerts. In 2004 he guest-conducted the Ergo Ensemble during their Lithuanian tour. He has worked with some of Canada's finest soloists, including Maureen Forrester, Richard Margison, and Jon Kimura Parker, and with NEXUS.


Alex Pauk had written more than 60 concert works by 2008, most of them on commission, in addition to film and TV scores. His experience with a wide range of contemporary music as a conductor is reflected in the eclectic style and strong feeling for unusual but effective instrumental combinations in his own music. Jazz, popular music, and especially world music have all left their mark on his compositions. Mirage and Nomad use harmonies and rhythms derived from Balkan and Middle Eastern music, while Echo Spirit Isle, a reworking of the earlier Devotions, resulted from his study of gamelan music.

Alex Pauk's works from the 1990s and 2000s have, in parallel with his conducting, tended increasingly toward a multidisciplinary aesthetic. Farewell to Heaven (1996) is a one-hour work for chamber orchestra and dance, that draws its influence from non-western sources; it was premiered by the Menaka Thakkar dance company. Touch Piece (2003) is a work for orchestra and 16-channel surround sound, with a digital soundtrack and a multiple-screen video setup surrounded by fabric sculptures displayed with specially designed lighting. He has also continued to compose works for soloists, writing his Concerto for Harp and Orchestra (2005) for Erica Goodman, Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (2001) for the Duo Turgeon, and Flute Quintet (2003) for Robert Aitken and the Cuarteto Latinoamericano, among others.

Alex Pauk has received commissions from James Campbell, the CBC, Courtenay Youth Music Centre, the Esprit Orchestra, Joseph Macerollo, the National Youth Orchestra, the Quebec Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver New Music Society, and the York Winds, among others.


Under Alex Pauk's leadership, the Esprit Orchestra has won several awards, including a SOCAN Award of Merit (1990); the Jean A. Chalmers National Music Award (1995); and three Lieutenant-Governor's Awards (1996, 1998, 2000). Pauk was named Musician of the Year in 1999 by the Toronto Musicians' Association and, along with Louie, won the Louis Applebaum Composers' Award of Excellence in Film and Television Music (2002). In 2007 Pauk was honoured with a prestigious Molson Prize. Upon conferring it, the jury remarked that Pauk's "true brilliance has emerged in the way that he has introduced new audiences - including young people and more traditional audiences for orchestral music - to the joys of exploring uncharted terrain, both musically and in the new and unusual venues where he has set his performances" (Canada Council website). Pauk is married to the composer Alexina Louie. He is a member (and was president 1983-9) of the Canadian League of Composers and was named an ambassador of the Canadian Music Centre in 2009.

Selected Compositions

Fragmentations. 1971. Ms

The Scroll. 1974. Ms

Solari. 1977. Ms

Echo Spirit Isle. 1983. Ms. CBC SMCD-5101 (Esprit Orch)

Mirage. 1984. Ms

Split Seconds. 1988. Ms

Cosmos. 1988. Ms

Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra. 2001

Touch Piece. 2003

Concerto for Harp and Orchestra. 2005


'Notes from composers,' Music, Dec 1979


The Esprit Orchestra. Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 1991. CBC Records SMCD5101

Music for Heaven and Earth. Robert Aitken flute, NEXUS percussion, Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 1995. CBC Records SMCD5154

Introduction To Canadian Music. Alex Pauk conductor, et al. 1997. NAXOS 855017

Tabuh-tabuhan - Music Of Colin Mcphee. Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 1998. CBC SM5181

Last Night. Alex Pauk conductor. 1999. Sony Classics 60830

The Adjuster: Mychael Danna - Music for the Films of Atom Egoyan. Eve Egoyan piano, Djivan Gasparian duduk, Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 1996. Varèse Sarabande VSD 5674

Somers: Celebration. Jean Stilwell mezzo soprano, James Parker piano, Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 2000. CBC SM5199 Low Stock

Iridescence. Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 2001. CBC SM5132

Schafer: Letters From Mignon. Eleanor James mezzo-soprano, Alex Pauk conductor, Esprit Orchestra. 2007. Atma Classique 2553

This Isn't Silence. Robert Aitken flute, Alex Pauk conductor, Brian Current conductor, Bramwell Tovey conductor, Andrey Boreyko conductor, Esprit Orchestra, New Music Concerts Ensemble, CBC Radio Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. 2007. CMCCD 12607


Magaru. 1973. Fl, vla, percussion. Ms

Beyond. 1976. Fl, oboe, violoncello, percussion, 2 synthesizer, percussion. Ms

Devotions. 1982. Gamelan ensemble. Ms

The Seventh Aura. 1986. Elec string quintet. Ms

Water from the Moon. 1986. Cl, violin, violoncello. Ms

Entities of Night. 1987. Saxophone, elec guitar, elec bass, drum set, percussion, strings. Ms

Flames and Crystals. 1988. Ww quintet. Ms

Tucume. 1988. Fl, oboe, clarinet, horn, viola, violoncello, double-bass, 2 percussion, elec piano. Ms

Farewell to Heaven. Chamber orchestra. 1996

Flute Quintet. 2003


Prisma. 1974. Org, tape. Ms

Legend of the Raven. 1981. Pf. Ms

Nebulae. 1981. Pf 4 hands. Ms

Voice and Choir

Underneath the Afternoon (M. Pinney). rev 1974. Sop, alto fl, english horn, violoncello, percussion. Ms

Dream Banners (traditional Nootka texts). 1976. SATB. Ms

Chant pour un Équinoxe (St-John Perse). 1981. Mezzo, SATB, chamber ensemble. Ms

Also a radiophonic montage Nomad (1984) and film and TV scores

Film Scores

Gordon Pinsent and the Life and Times of Edwin Alonzo Boyd. 1982

Facultés Affaiblies. 1985

Sous le coup du choc. 1985

Martha, Ruth & Edie. 1988 (with Alexina Louie)

See No Evil. 1988

Last Night. 1998 (with Louie)

The Five Senses. 1999 (with Louie)

24fps. 2000 (with Louie)

Perfect Pie. 2002 (with Louie)

Further Reading