Jean Papineau-Couture | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jean Papineau-Couture

Jean Papineau-Couture. Composer, educator, administrator, b Montreal 12 Nov 1916, d there 11 Aug 2000; B MUS (New England Conservatory) 1941, honorary D MUS (Chicago Conservatory College) 1960, honorary LLD (Saskatchewan) 1967. He was a grandson of Guillaume Couture and Mercédès Papineau.

Papineau-Couture, Jean

Jean Papineau-Couture. Composer, educator, administrator, b Montreal 12 Nov 1916, d there 11 Aug 2000; B MUS (New England Conservatory) 1941, honorary D MUS (Chicago Conservatory College) 1960, honorary LLD (Saskatchewan) 1967. He was a grandson of Guillaume Couture and Mercédès Papineau. He began piano lessons in 1922 with his mother, Marie-Anne Dostaler, and continued 1926-39 with Françoise D'Amour, who also taught him harmony, sight-reading, and music history. He studied counterpoint 1937-40 with Gabriel Cusson and piano 1939-40 with Léo-Pol Morin. In 1940, with the assistance of a Quebec government grant, he attended the New England Conservatory in Boston to work with Quincy Porter (composition), Francis Findlay (orchestral conducting), and Beveridge Webster (piano). With Nadia Boulanger 1941-3 at the Longy School in Cambridge, Mass, he studied Stravinsky's major works and the composition techniques of such French composers as Fauré, Ravel, and Debussy.

From that time onwards, composition became Papineau-Couture's main preoccupation. His earliest acknowledged work is the Églogues (1942), composed in Cambridge. In June 1944, after a year spent teaching mainly piano at the Jean-de-Brébeuf College in Montreal, he received another grant which enabled him to resume studies with Nadia Boulanger in Madison, Wisc, and at Lake Arrowhead, Cal. A US patron, Arthur Sachs, invited Papineau-Couture and his wife, Isabelle, to spend the winter at his ranch in Santa Barbara along with a few other privileged visitors, including five of Nadia Boulanger's pupils. There they were joined on occasion by Stravinsky and his wife, Vera.

Returning to Montreal in 1945 Papineau-Couture was put in charge of piano studies at Brébeuf College. His teaching, however, was concentrated elsewhere. He taught theory, solfège, and dictation at the CMM 1946-63 and, at the University of Montreal Faculty of Music, taught harmony, counterpoint, and ear training 1951-82. He served as dean of the faculty 1968-73, and was a pioneer in the development of a course on musical acoustics based on the physical principles of resonance reapplied to the evolution of musical composition. His pupils in theory and composition have included Marcelle Deschênes, Richard Grégoire, Jacques Hétu, François Morel, André Prévost, and Gilles Tremblay.

Papineau-Couture's work as an educator was extended through his participation in the decision-making processes of many organizations concerned with musical training or betterment: the AMQ (associate secretary 1947-54, president 1962-3), the QMTA 1948-52, the JMC (YMC) (president, Montreal branch 1956-64), the Canadian Music Council (president 1967-8), and the Conseil des arts du Québec (chairman of the sub-committee on music 1962-4).

Other organizations were to afford Papineau-Couture further opportunities to promote Canadian music: the Canadian Music Centre of which he was a founder-member and which he served as president 1973-4, the CLComp (president 1957-9 and 1963-6) and its Montreal concert-giving offshoot the Society of Canadian Music (secretary 1959-67), and the SMCQ (founder-member, president 1966-72). He was vice-president 1976-7 and president 1977-8 of the Humanities Research Council of Canada (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). He was a member of the board of directors of EMC. He received the 1962 Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée and the Canadian Music Council Medal in 1973, the Prix Denise-Pelletier awarded by the MACQ in 1981, the Diplôme d'honneur of the CCA in 1986, and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1968 and a Grand Officier of the Ordre national du Québec in 1988. He was awarded the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 1994.

Volume 4 of RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music (6-ACM 4), issued in 1986, is devoted to his works. Louise Bail Milot published an important monograph on his life, his career, and his work in 1986. Towards 1992 he began to deposit his personal papers at the BN du Q.

Besides book and record reviews (CMJ, Autumn 1958, Summer 1959, Winter 1961), Papineau-Couture wrote articles for Le Livre de l'année (Montreal 1958) and gave many talks, notably before the Ligue Amérique française (1944), the International Conference of Composers (Stratford, Ont, 1960), the International Federation of the JM World Congress (PDA, Montreal, July 1967), and ISME (Tunis, July 1972).

The music of Papineau-Couture has evolved between two poles: one of sensitivities and emotions barely held in check, and the other of sheer cerebralism wherein the need for organization becomes both fundamental and natural. Both tendencies are clearly apparent in two periods in the first ten years of his career: an impressionistic period - that of the Églogues, a work which speaks of a completed phase and is a reminder of the years of apprenticeship; and a neoclassical period, which began in 1942 with the Suite for piano, grows stronger with the Concerto grosso, the Sonata in G, the Suite for flute and piano, and the Suite for piano and four winds, and ends with the Concerto (1951-2) for violin and chamber orchestra. The last-named work may be regarded as a turning point in the search for new organizing principles, comparable to those which arose later in the five Pièces concertantes (1957-63). The two poles occasionally unite in a desire to support a freer structure, using nevertheless some fixed principle: system, form, text, or plan. This is borne out by such works as Viole d'amour (1966), Sextet (1967), Paysage (1968), and Chanson de Rahit (1972), which borrow their mystical notion of sonority from the Églogues, yet are fashioned in a neoclassical style interpreted, as in Stravinsky, not as a return to the past but as intellectual utterance, precise and rigorous.

Thus the composer's path issued from a radical development of early writing habits rooted in impressionism (modality, bi-modality, polymodality, the whole-tone scale, chords with simultaneous major and minor thirds), passes through a flirtation with serialism (Suite for solo violin, Canons), pauses momentarily for a personal application of the theories of Hindemith (Concerto for violin and chamber orchestra), and arrives finally at the adoption of total chromaticism employed first 1950-63 with anchor points and then, after the discoveries of the Fantaisie for wind quintet, with split planes, beginning with the Pièce concertante No. 5. The forms reveal this fixed approach; with the Psaume CL Papineau-Couture already was moving towards an increasingly pronounced structuralism (the Pièces concertantes) and, in such works as Dyarchie, Complémentarité, and the Trio in four movements (1974), towards a system of complementarities (already apparent in the Trois Caprices of 1962) which permits the exploitation of symmetry through split planes as well as by a central pivot. (See also Composition, instrumental solos and duos: 2/ Piano solos; Concertos and concertante music.)

Papineau-Couture's intellectualism often has been severely criticized, while insufficient attention is paid to his constant sensibility, which worries the phrases along with syncopated accents or alternatively yields to an insistent, aggressive hammering (an offshoot of an agogic and motoristic style much in favour at the beginning of the century). The composer's output does, however, offer some almost sensuous sonorities (Oscillations, Obsession, Slano, Nuit), some examples of a musical poetry which speaks to the heart (Quatrains, Mort, Viole d'amour, Chanson de Rahit, Paysage, Le Débat du coeur et du corps de Villon), and pages which return to a romantic penchant for virtuosity (Étude in B-flat Minor, Mouvement perpétuel, Concerto for piano and orchestra, Com plémentarité, and Verségères). He invites us to laugh with him in Suite Lapitsky or even on occasion to rediscover - as if in bewilderment, in the Poème, Symphony No. 1, Quartet No. 1, or the Pièce concertante No. 3 - the world of the classical 'three B's,' through a thickness in the harmonies, or, in Papotages, Prélude, Pièce concertante No. 5 and the piano Concerto, that of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, through the unusual intoxication with orchestral sonorities. Gilles Manny's recording of the latter work was awarded the prix du Festival du disque canadien in 1969. Following his retirement from teaching at the University of Montreal in 1982, at which time he was appointed professor emeritus, Papineau-Couture continued to produce despite personal ordeals which beset him. First these were health problems, which, though severe, affected his morale less than the loss of his wife, Isabelle.

Nevertheless, in the 10 years which ensued (1982-91), he composed no less than 13 works, including one for piano (Idée), one for guitar (Exploration), one for viola (Prouesse), one for violin and piano (Thrène) and three for chamber groupings (Nuit polaire, Les Arabesques d'Isabelle; Célébration, a collective work to mark the 40th anniversary of the CLComp and the 20th anniversary of the NMC in 1991). He also wrote organ works during this period, realizing a 20-year wish to write for keyboard players taking up the organ. Papineau-Couture prepared a collection of progressive pieces for the 'first steps of an organist with agile hands.'

The study of timbres, confronted with the dilemmas posed by certain technical problems, continues to be at the heart of Papineau-Couture's aesthetic. Moreover, the methods used remain the same while the thematic material oscillates between nostalgia and the effects of sheer performance. The titles are significant in this respect. On the one hand are Nuit, Clair-obscur, Nuit polaire, Vers l'extinction, Thrène, and Célébration, and on the other, Idée, Exploration, Prouesse, Arcadie, Courbes, Quasipassacaille, and Les Arabesques d'Isabelle. Papineau-Couture struck a consistent balance between those poles throughout his 50 years of creative activity, from Églogues and the Concerto grosso, to the Suite for solo violin and those that followed.

See also François Papineau-Couture (his son).

Selected Compositions

Papotages/Tittle-Tattle, ballet. 1949 (Montreal 1950). Full orch. Ms

Éclosion, pantomime. 1961 (Montreal 1961). Pf, violin, tape. Ms

Many puppet shows, including Les Voleurs volés (1949), Sous la grande tente (1950), Le Rossignol (1962)


'Que sera la musique canadienne?' Amérique française, vol 2, Oct 1942

'Training of composers,' The Modern Composer and His World (Toronto 1961)

Analysis of 'Pièce Concertante No. 1 for Piano and String Orchestra' (Repliement)/Notes sur la 'Pièce concertante no. 1,' CMCentre Study Course No. 1 (Toronto 1961); repr in Musicien éducateur du Québec, vol 5, no. 1, 1974

'Difficultés d'une carrière musicale au début du siècle,' Montreal Le Devoir, 2 Jun 1962

'Le danger de la spirale de l'inflation devant la nouveauté,' Jmc, vol 14, Jul 1968

- and Papineau-Couture, Isabelle. 'Souvenirs,' [Igor Stravinsky], CMB, 4, Spring-Summer 1972

'Regard sur près de cinquante années de création musicale,' Cahiers de l'ARMuQ, 8, May 1897


Concerto Grosso. 1943, rev 1955 (Montreal 1947, 1957). Chamb orch. BMIC 1958. RCI 156/6-ACM 4 (W. Pelletier)

Symphony No. 1. 1948, rev 1956 (Montreal 1949, Toronto 1957). Full orch. Ber (1956 version rental). (1948 version) RCI 3 (J.-M. Beaudet)

Aria from the Suite for Piano. 1949. Ber (rental)

Marche de Guillaumet (excerpt from Les Voleurs volés). 1952 (Toronto 1952). Med orch. Ms. CBC SMCD-5093 (Edmonton Symphony Orchestra)

Poème. 1952 (Montreal 1953). Full orch. Ber (rental)

Prélude. 1953 (Montreal 1953). Full orch. Ber (rental). RCI 90/6-ACM 4 (R. Leduc)

Trois Pièces. 1961 (Saskatoon 1962). Ms

Pièce concertante No. 5 'Miroirs.' 1963 (Montreal 1963). Orch. Ms. Souvenir recording from the PDA (MSO)/RCI 597 (O métropolitain)

Suite Lapitsky. 1965 (Montreal 1966). Full orch. Ms

Oscillations. 1969 (Vancouver 1969). Med orch. Ber 1975

Obsession. 1973 (Montreal 1973). Sm orch. CMCentre

Soloist(s) and Orchestra

Concerto. 1952 (Montreal 1954). Vn, chamber orch. BMIC 1960. RCI 117 (Brunet)

Ostinato. 1952. Str, harp, piano. Ber 1975

Psaume CL. 1954 (Montreal 1955). Sop, tenor, SATB, organ, winds. BMIC 1964. RCI 128/6-ACM 4 (Montreal Bach Choir)

Pièce concertante No. 1 'Repliement.' 1957 (Montreal 1957). Pf, string orch. BMIC 1961. Col MS 6285 (CBC Symphony Orchestra)

Pièce concertante No. 2 'Éventails.' 1959. Vc, chamber orch. Ms

Pièce concertante No. 3 'Variations.' 1959 (Montreal 1959). Fl, clarinet, violin, violoncello, harp, string orch. Ms. RCI 293/6-ACM 4 (Beaudry)

Pièce concertante No. 4 'Additions.' 1959 (Saskatoon 1959) Ob, string orch. Québec-Musique 1980

Concerto. 1965 (Toronto 1966). Pf, orch. Ber 1974. RCI 235/RCA CCS-1029/6-ACM 4. (Manny)

Paysage (Saint-Denys Garneau). 1968 (Zagreb 1969). 8 singers, 8 speaker, small orch. Ms. RCI 299/6-ACM 4 (SMCQ)

Contraste (Papineau-Couture). 1970 (Montreal 1970). V, orch. Ms

Clair-obscur. 1986. Cbn, double-bass, orch. Ms

Nuit polaire (I. Papineau-Couture) : 1986. Contralto, chamber orch. Ms


Sonata in G. 1944 (rev 1953). Vn, piano. Ms. RCI 92 (Brunet)/RCI 438/6-ACM 4 (Staryk)

Suite. 1945. Fl, piano. Ms

Aria. 1946. Vn. BMIC 1966. CBC Expo 29/RCI 245/6-ACM 4 (B.-J. Hagen)/Bar BUS 2851/Everest SDBR 3203 (Staryk)

Suite. 1947. Fl, clarinet, bassoon, horn, piano. Ms. CBC Expo 11 (Tor Ww Quin)

Quartet No. 1. 1953. Str quartet. Québec-Musique 1986. RCI 363/6-ACM 4 (Classical Quartet of Montreal)

Rondo. 1953. 4 recorder. AMP 1957/RCI 502 (Capriole Ensemble)

Suite. 1956. Vn. Peer 1966. RCI 222/RCA CCS-1016/6-ACM 4 (Staryk)/(1967) CBC Expo-35 (L. Garnier)

Trois Caprices. 1962. Vn, piano. Peer 1971. RCI 243/6-ACM 4 (Staryk)

Fantaisie. 1963. Ww quintet. BMIC 1968. Ca 1969. JMC C30/Alpha DB 95 (Brussels woodwind quintet)

Canons. 1964. Brass quintet. Ms. 1981. Music Gallery Editions MGE-34 (Composers' Brass Group)

Dialogues. 1967. Vn, piano. Peer 1973. Centredisques CMC-3088 (L.-P. Pelletier)

Quartet No. 2. 1967. Str quartet. Québec-Musique 1981. RCI 362/6-ACM 4 (Orford String Quartet)

Sextuor. 1967. Ob, clarinet, bassoon, string trio. Ms

Nocturnes. 1969. Fl, clarinet, violin, violoncello, harpsichord, guitar, percussion. Ms

Départ. 1974. Alto fl. Ms. Centredisques CMC-3088 (Aitken)

Trio in Four Movements. 1974. Cl, viola, piano. Ms. Centredisques CMC-3088 (Accordes)

Verségères. 1975 (rev 1988). Bass fl. Ms. RCI 647 (Daoust). Centredisques CMC-3088 (Aitken)

J'aime les tierces mineures. 1976. fl. Trans-Atlantique (Paris) 1978

Le Débat du coeur et du corps de Villon (F. Villon). 1977 (rev 1979). Spkr, violoncello, percussion. Ms. RCI 498/6-ACM 4 (SMCQ)

Exploration. 1983. Guit. Ms

Prouesse. 1985. Va. Ms. RCI 647 (Golani)

Arcardie. 1986. 4 fl. Ms

Thrène. 1988. Vn, piano. Ms

Les Arabesques d'Isabelle. 1989. Fl, english horn, clarinet, bassoon, piano. Ms

Automne. 1992. Chamber orchestra. Ms.

Vents capricieux. 1993. Chamber orchestra. Ms.

Chocs sonores. 1994. Percussion. Ms.

Quatuor no 3. 1996. Ms.

Appel. 1997. ob, bn, cor. tpt, piano. Ms.

Septet. 1997. Chamber ensemble. Ms.

Discussion animée. 1997. violin, piano. Ms.

Trio for violin, cello and piano. 2000. Ms.


Mouvement perpétuel. 1943. Pf. BMIC 1949. RCI 134/6-ACM 4 (Newmark)

Suite. 1943. PF. BMIC 1959. RCI 251/6-ACM (A.-S. Savoie)/Mel SMLP 4023 (Kubálek)/('Rondo') IRC-SA-1 (W. Stevens)

Deux Valses. 1944. Pf. FH 1955. RCI 397/6-ACM 4 (Holtzman)

Étude in B Flat Minor. 1945. Pf. Peer 1959. RCI 135 (J. Dufresne)/CBC SM-78/6-ACM 4 (Ozolins)/CBC SM-114 (Fialkowska)

Rondo. 1945. Pf-4 hands. BMIC 1951

Aria. 1960. BMIC 1964. Wat CCM-2 (Cavalho)

Complémentarité. 1971 (rev 1984). Ms. RCI 384/6-ACM 4 (J.-P. Sévilla)

Dyarchie. 1971. Hpd. Ms

Nuit. 1978. Dob-Yppan 1987. RCI 647 (L. P- Pelletier)

Idée. 1982. Pf. Dob-Yppan 1988. Centredisques CMC-3088 (L.-P. Pelletier)

Vers l'extinction. Org. 1987. Ms

Courbes. 1988. Ms

Quasipassacaille. 1988. Org. Ms

Méandres. 1998. Piano. Ms.

Voice or Choir

Églogues (P. Baillargeon). 1942. Alto, fl, piano. Amérique française 1943. Allied ARCLP 4 (J. Dufresne)/Hallmark RS6 (Musica Antica e Nuova)/RCI 647 (Daoust)

4 works for voice(s) on liturgical texts (1944-58): Pater noster; Ave Maria; Offertoire 'Père, daignez recevoir' (Ms) ; Te mater. (Alliance des chorales du Québec 1980)

Complainte populaire (anonymous). 1946. Sop, bar, piano. Ms. RCI 515 (Laferrière)

Quatrains (F. Jammes). 1947. Sop, piano. Dob-Yppan 1986/RCI 148/CBC Expo 32/6-ACM (Alarie)/Centredisques CMC-1083 (Mailing)

Mort (F. Villon). 1956. Alto, piano.Ms. (1988). RCI 647 (Jalbert alto, Goyette piano)

À Jésus, mon roi, mon grand ami, mon frère (A. Marie). 1960. 2 soli, children's chorus. Ms

Viole d'amour (R. Lasnier). 1966. SATB. Ms

Chanson de Rahit (Han Suyin). 1972. Vl, clarinet, piano. Ms

Further Reading