Jean Vallerand | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jean Vallerand

In 1940 Vallerand won the Schumann trophy at the Festival-concours de musique du Québec for his song "Les Roses à la mer," later performed by Jeanne Desjardins and Mary Henderson.

Vallerand, Jean

 Vallerand, Jean (d'Auray). Composer, critic, administrator, teacher, essayist, conductor, violinist, (Montreal 24 Dec 1915, Montreal 24 June 1994); L LITT (Montreal) 1938, journalism diploma (ibid) 1941, honorary D MUS (Ottawa) 1975. While pursuing classical and university studies, he studied violin with Lucien Sicotte (1920-35) and theory and composition with Claude Champagne (1935-42). In 1941 he succeeded Léo-Pol Morin as a critic at the daily Le Canada and thus began a distinguished career in journalism. After his stint at Le Canada (1941-46), he became a critic for Montréal-Matin (1948-49), Le Devoir (1952-61), Le Nouveau Journal (1961-2), and La Presse (1962-66).

In 1940 Vallerand won the Schumann trophy at the Festival-concours de musique du Québec for his song "Les Roses à la mer," later performed by Jeanne Desjardins and Mary Henderson. In 1942 Désiré Defauw and the CSM orchestra (MSO) presented the premiere performance of his symphonic poem Le Diable dans le beffroi, a work inspired by the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and often performed in the USA and Europe. Between 1940 and 1950 Vallerand composed and conducted incidental music for more than 50 classical and contemporary plays produced on the CBC. His output, if these are included, was relatively large. His Nocturne for orchestra received a special mention in 1947 at the Reichold International Competition of the Detroit SO. The Sonata for violin and piano was premiered in 1952 by Noël Brunet and John Newmark and later transcribed for violin and orchestra. (Les Éditions Québec-Musique (107) 1981. The String Quartet was premiered by the Montreal String Quartet in 1955 and Quatre Poèmes de Saint-Denys Garneau by Marguerite Lavergne and John Newmark. Two works, Cordes en mouvement for string orchestra and Étude concertante for violin and orchestra, were commissioned by the Lapitsky Foundation (1961) and the Montreal International Competition (1969), respectively.

Vallerand's output attests to a solid background and reveals qualities of sensitivity and intellect often found in the music of French composers. In Le Diable dans le beffroi he displays a rare mastery in handling orchestral timbres and much imagination in unifying the dramatic elements of program music. With regard to his Sonata for violin and piano, which is classical in design, the composer declared: "In this work, all my efforts are directed towards the identification of form and expression. It is the common denominator of everything I knew about music at the time I wrote it" (La Semaine à Radio-Canada, February 1951). Vallerand turned to serial technique with the 1955 Quartet; he subsequently used it less rigorously in such works as Cordes en mouvement and Étude concertante. His only opera, Le Magicien, for which he also wrote the libretto, was inspired by the commedia dell'arte, and captures the verve and colour of that genre in a score that skilfully underlines the situations and vicissitudes of the action. No new compositions by Vallerand were heard after 1969.

In 1944 Vallerand prepared the chorus for the Opera Guild production of Rimsky-Korsakov's Coq d'or. He also conducted the Guild's productions of Hansel and Gretel (1944), Così fan tutte, and The Magic Flute (1945). During this period he frequently appeared as conductor of the CSM orchestra at young people's concerts. He was a regular performer on the CBC's educational series "Radio-Collège" (1945-56) and often conducted ensembles to illustrate his remarks.

Vallerand's musical and academic training made him the logical choice to assist Wilfrid Pelletier when the CMM was founded. He was its secretary general from 1942 to 1963 and taught orchestration. He also taught orchestration and music history at the University of Montreal (1950-66). After 20 years at the CMM, Vallerand turned to other areas of musical activity. He was head of radio music (1963-6) for CBC Montreal and cultural attaché (1966-70) for the Quebec government in Paris. In 1971 he was appointed director of music education for the MACQ; after a reorganization that year he became director of performing arts (1971-5) and director of the Cons de musique et d'art dramatique du Québec (1971-8; see Conservatoire de musique du Québec). He helped prepare and draft the report of the task force headed by Jean-Paul Jeannotte (1974-5). In 1975 he became a teaching consultant at the CMM and in 1976 staff consultant with the MACQ. He served as secretary general of the OJQ (1977-8) and retired in 1980.

In the 1940s Jean Vallerand began writing program notes for the MSO and other musical organizations and appearing as a lecturer on various subjects. He contributed to numerous periodicals, including L'Action universitaire, Amérique francaise, Culture vivante, Gants du ciel, Liberté, Maclean, Musical America, Relations, and Vie musicale. He reviewed cultural events for CBC radio and TV, appearing on such programs as "La Revue des arts et des lettres," and was a frequent guest on the French-network broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.

Vallerand's versatility has been described accurately by Annette Lasalle-Leduc: "In examining the personality of Jean Vallerand, it is difficult to distinguish the composer, the essayist, the educator and the critic. His rather aristocratic spirit, imbued with insatiable curiosity and a rare eclecticism, has been attracted to all aspects of contemporary music and to all forms of thought. The value of his judgments, the quality of his literary language, which reveals him to be a humanist, and finally his knowledge of the musician's craft, lend an indisputable authority to his criticism. As for his musical output, since Le Diable dans le beffroi (1942), it has espoused in turn the diverse trends of contemporary music. His recent String Quartet makes use of serial principles, his Prélude for orchestra is a piece of admirable musical and poetic density; moreover, special features of Vallerand's music are its preoccupation with timbre and its richness: ample evidence of his excellence as harmonist and orchestrator" (La Vie musicale).

Vallerand was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He was appointed Chevalier of the Ordre national du Québec in 1991. Volume 19 of RCI's Anthology of Canadian Music (3-ACM 19), issued in 1984, is devoted to Vallerand's compositions. In 1996 Jean Vallerand et la vie musicale du Québec by Marie-Thérèse Lefebvre was published Les Quatre Poèmes de Saint-Denys Garneau is interpreted by Bruno Laplante in the collection La Mélodie française (Fonovox, 1997).

Selected Compositions

Stage, Film
Marie Stuart, incidental music (Schiller). 1961. Ms.

Noces de sang, incidental music (Lorca). 1962. Ms.

La Cerisaie, incidental music (Chekhov). 1963. Ms.

La Fin des étés, film. 1964. NFB.

Payse, ballet based on Prélude for orchestra. 1964. Ms.

Incidental music for over 50 radio dramas on the CBC.

See also Le Magicien.

Le Diable dans le beffroi. 1942. Ms. RCI 41/3-ACM 19 (TS).

Nocturne. 1946. Ms.

Notre Dame de la Couronne, cantata (G. Lamarche). 1946. Ten solo, SATB, orch. Ms.

Notre Dame du Pain, cantata (R. Lasnier). 1946. Ten solo, SATB, orch. Ms.

Prélude. 1948. Ms. RCI 116/3-ACM 19 (Waddington).

Concerto, orchestral version of Sonata. 1951. Vn, orch. Ms.

Cordes en mouvement. 1961. Str orch. Ms. RCI 216/RCA CCS-1010/3-ACM 19 (McGill Chamber Orchestra).

Réverbérations contractoires. 1961. Ms.

Étude concertante. 1969. Vn, orch. Ms.

Sonata. 1950. Vn, piano. Québec-Musique 1981. RCI 92 (Brunet)/Masters of the Bow MBS-2002/3-ACM 19 (Bress).

String Quartet. 1955. Ms. RCI 141/3-ACM 19 (Montreal String Quartet)/ Col MS-6364 (Canadian String Quartet).

Voice and Piano
"Les Roses à la mer" (Desbordes-Valmore). Ca 1935. Ms.

Quatre Poèmes de Saint-Denys Garneau. 1954. Ms. RCI 393/3-ACM 19 (B. Laplante)/(nos. 1 and 3) Allied ARCLP-4 (J. Dufresne) Fonovox (Vox 77859-2 (B. Laplante).


Jean Vallerand, "Conquête de la forme: épisode de la vie d'un compositeur, "Gants du ciel, Dec 1943.

Introduction à la musique (Montreal 1949).

La Musique et les tout-petits (Montreal 1950).

"La musique et la vie intérieure, "Action universitaire, vol 16, Jan 1950.

"Rencontre avec Varèse, "Liberté, vol 69, Sep-Oct 1959.

"A look at music in Québec, "Musical America, vol 83, Sep 1963.

"Pour que s'arrête le gaspillage de talent, "VM, vol 1, 1965.

"Le Conservatoire dans la cité, "Culture vivante, vol 11, Dec 1968.

Visages d'Edgard Varèse. Serge Garant; Marcel Blouin; Lean Vallerand; François Morel; Gilles Tremblay; Yves Préfontaine. Ed. Fernand Ouellette. Montreal : les Éditions de l'Hexagone, 1959.

Lefebvre, Marie-Thérèse. Jean Vallerand et la vie musicale du Québec, 1915-1994 (Montreal 1996).


Contemporary Canadian Composers/Compositeurs canadiens contemporains.

Lefebvre, Marie-Thérèse, Jean Vallerand et la vie musicale du Québec, Montreal, Édition due Méridien, 1997.

Olivier, Dominique, "Jean Vallerand, Critique musical, "Les Cahiers de l'ARMuQ, no 18, 11-24, Dec. 1996.