Bruce Mather, born James Bruce Mather, is one of Canada's finest modern composers, and commands great respect as a pianist to boot (though of course no Canadian pianist is likely to ever approach Glenn Gould in his country's eye and ear!). Mather was born in Toronto in 1939 and studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in that city from age 13 until age 18. He then moved over to the University of Toronto to work towards an undergraduate degreeRead more in music (B.Mus., 1959), focusing equally on the piano and on composition; summers during his teenage years were spent at Aspen. Upon completion of his courses in Toronto Mather enrolled at the Paris Conservatoire, where he counted both Milhaud and Messiaen among his teachers (his piano teacher, Lazare Lévy, was no slouch either). He returned to North America in 1961 and in 1964 took a master's degree from Stanford University. He earned a doctorate from his old school, the University of Toronto, in 1967, having already been accepted onto the faculty of McGill University in Montreal. From 1970 on he taught at the University of Montreal.
Mather has composed a great deal of music over the years, somewhat more than most modern North American composers seem comfortable composing. Chamber music seems to be his area of greatest expertise, and he is happy writing for all kinds of instrumental combinations; in addition to the usual string and wind instruments, he has employed mandolin, gong, marimba, pre-recorded tape, and even ondes martenot (in the 1991 work Yquem for four ondes martenot and four pianos). The 1984 work Barbaresco, which earned Mather the Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux Prize, is a string trio, not for the usual violin, viola, and cello group but rather for the deeper-sounding combination of viola, cello, and string bass.
Mather's vocal music, which includes works for both solo singer (usually accompanied by chamber ensemble) and for chorus, is also highly admired. The less numerous orchestral works are not often heard. Mather flies by the seat of his pants as a composer, taking up whatever technique or techniques seem best to him in any given piece -- he will gladly compose in a traditional manner, or in a twelve-tone one; or he might offer freely atonal music whose pages are filled with utterly modern quarter-tones. Read less
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