Clermont Pépin | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Clermont Pépin

Pépin, (Jean Joseph) Clermont. Composer, pianist, teacher, administrator, b St-Georges-de-Beauce, Que, 15 May 1926, d Montreal 2 Sep 2006; Artist Diploma piano, composition (Curtis) 1944, Artist Diploma (RCM) 1949; MA public administration (École nationale d'administration publique) 1984.

Pépin, Clermont

Pépin, (Jean Joseph) Clermont. Composer, pianist, teacher, administrator, b St-Georges-de-Beauce, Que, 15 May 1926, d Montreal 2 Sep 2006; Artist Diploma piano, composition (Curtis) 1944, Artist Diploma (RCM) 1949; MA public administration (École nationale d'administration publique) 1984. Pépin received his first piano and harmony lessons in his native village from Georgette Dionne-Lagacé. At 12 he was introduced by Wilfrid Pelletier as both composer and conductor at a matinée of Les Concerts symphoniques de Montréal. Pelletier conducted his orchestration of a minuet by Pépin. On 23 Jan 1939, at the Palais Montcalm in Quebec City, the Société symphonique (Quebec Symphony Orchestra) presented a Pépin symphony directed by J.-Robert Talbot, who had orchestrated the original piano duet. Pépin received a scholarship of $500 from the orchestra's committee.

Early Career
In 1937 Pépin earned a special prize from the Canadian Performing Rights Society for his Invention for piano and Ave Maria. He went to Montreal 1939-41 to study piano with Arthur Letondal and theory with Claude Champagne. On a scholarship to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia he studied 1941-4 with Jeanne Behrend (piano) and Rosario Scalero (composition). Returning to Montreal, he spent 1944-6 at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal (CMM) with Jean Dansereau (piano), Claude Champagne (composition), Louis Bailly (chamber music), and Léon Barzin (conducting). Three prize awards from CAPAC enabled him to study 1946-9 at the Senior School of the Royal Conservatory of Music with Lubka Kolessa (piano), Arnold Walter (composition), and Nicholas Goldschmidt (conducting). He won the Eaton Graduating Scholarship of $1000.

Pépin's String Quartet No. 1 was performed at a student composers' symposium at Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY, in 1948. Other important works of this period include the Concerto No. 1 for piano and orchestra, performed in 1946 by Pépin with the Montreal Youth Symphony Orchestra (See Youth Orchestras); Variations symphoniques, award-winner in the 1948 centennial competition at Collège Ste-Marie, Montreal; and Symphony No. 1, premiered in 1947 on CBC radio under the direction of Jean-Marie Beaudet. These works are in the post-Romantic tradition but display originality in their construction and in their resourceful instrumentation.

Pépin won the 1949 Prix d'Europe as a pianist and lived 1949-55 in Paris. He studied piano with Yves Nat and Lazare Lévy and composition with Arthur Honegger and André Jolivet. At the Paris Cons, he took Olivier Messiaen's analysis course; Boulez and Stockhausen as well as Serge Garant and Sylvio Lacharité were among his fellow students. He started using serial techniques, and later declared 'I did not like serial music but it intrigued me. I started using this technique only gradually in my works, which were tonal until then.' The works written in Paris marked a new direction in his style, which had been influenced by Honegger. Guernica, a symphonic piece after the painting by Picasso, won first prize in a competition organized by Laval University for its centennial (1952). In Paris he performed the two-piano version of his ballet Les Portes de l'enfer with his first wife, the pianist Raymonde Gagnon, at a 1953 concert of the Pentacorde group, of which he was a member. Another symphonic work, La Rite du soleil noir, after a poem by Antonin Artaud, won second prize in a 1955 competition organized by Radio-Luxembourg.

Returning to Montreal, Pépin taught composition 1955-64 at CMM and became director of studies, before serving 1967-73 as director of the school. His many pupils included Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux, François Dompierre, André Gagnon, Jacques Hétu, and André Prévost.


Despite his teaching and administrative duties, Pépin pursued his creative activities and produced his String Quartet No. 2 (1957, his first completely serial piece) and his Symphony No. 2, commissioned by the CBC for the 'Little Symphonies'. Other notable steps in Pépin's career were the String Quartet No. 3 and String Quartet No. 4. Of the latter the composer said that 'it is not the end of my research in serial techniques but rather the beginning.' With Nombres, for two pianos and orchestra, Pépin went even further in his use of contemporary techniques. Employing the mathematical procedures formulated by Boulez, he divided the instrumental complement into 12 groups, of which two were pianos. Microphones and speakers arranged throughout the auditorium let the audience feel 'completely surrounded by music.'

Attracted to theatre and dance, Pépin wrote two ballets, L'Oiseau-phénix and Le Porte-rêve, the first premiered under his direction with choreography by Ludmilla Chiriaeff, the second premiered on CBC TV choreographed by Michel Conte. For the first time Pépin introduced an element of jazz to his music. He wrote incidental music 1956-64 for several productions of the Théâtre-Club and the Théâtre du Nouveau-Monde. He returned to large orchestra when, on commission for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, he wrote Quasars, Symphony No. 3, a work that revealed his interest in space sciences.

In 1964 Pépin undertook a series of works entitled Monade (a substance that is simple, active and indivisible). Commissioned by the Samuel Lapitsky Foundation, Monade I consists of sequences of notes, sustained without vibrato, which seek to imitate electronic sounds. Monade III, commissioned for the 1972 Montreal International Music Competition, is a bravura piece for violin and orchestra. In these works Pépin's style moved towards a certain starkness, but his manipulation of sound and rhythm remained characteristic and original. Prismes et cristaux, for large string orchestra, marked his return to classicism, inspired by the prelude-and-fugue format. In Interactions, commissioned by Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, the composer revisited his favourite themes of astronomy and space. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra commissioned his Implosion, Symphony No. 5, which was premiered in 1983.

Among his last works were Te Deum (for choir and instrumental ensemble, dedicated to Les Chanteurs de Sainte-Thérèse and premiered 2 Jun 1991); La Messe sur le monde (revised edition, premiered by the Quebec Symphony Orchestra 27 Apr 1993 with Joseph Rouleau singing the role of the grand priest); Prélude et Passacaille sur le nom de Gilles Lefebvre (for orchestra, 1999, a commission of Jeunesses Musicales of Canada); and Trois Improvisations (for cello and piano, 2003).

Pépin's creative evolution displays the intellectual development of one who is anxious to understand his century, searching to exploit fully the expressive possibilities of an art freed from traditional frameworks and enriched by new techniques. After the serial adventure, Pépin admitted, 'I am probably very sentimental at heart and very romantic. That, I think, is really one of the reasons why I went into serial music in the first place, because to me serial music is not at all intellectual. On the contrary, the more I go into it, the more I find that it opens an entire new world of emotional expression' (Thirty-four Biographies, Montreal 1964).

Teaching, Administrative Posts, Honours

In 1963 Pépin was a founder of the Centre d'études prospectives du Québec. He collaborated on Le Bruit, quatrième pollution du monde moderne, a publication of the centre (Montreal 1970). After serving 1974-77 as program-consultant at the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec, Pépin again taught harmony, counterpoint, and composition 1978-87 at the CMM and Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Québec. He was for several years a member of the administrative council of CAPAC, which he served as vice-president 1966-70 and president 1980-2. He was national president 1969-72 of the Jeunesses musicales of Canada (Youth and Music Canada).

In 1980 Pépin founded his own publishing company, Les Éditions Clermont Pépin, to publish his complete works. Also in 1980 the Montreal International Music Competition chose his Sonata for piano as its set piece. Volume 5 of Radio Canada International's Anthology of Canadian Music (4-ACM 5), issued in 1980, was devoted to Pépin's compositions. The Clermont-Pépin Concours, begun in 1985, confers grants to young musicians from the Beauce region. Pépin was awarded the Prix de musique Calixa-Lavallée in 1970, and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981 and an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec in 1990. In 2003-4, he was the Michener Visitor at Queen's University. He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre and a member of the Canadian League of Composers

Pépin's second wife was the violinist Mildred Goodman.

Selected Compositions

Les Portes de l'enfer, ballet. 1953. Med orch (2 piano). Ms

Athalie, incidental music. 1956. Ww, brass. Ms

Le Malade imaginaire, incidental music. 1956. Xyl, viola, violoncello, percussion. Ms

L'Oiseau-phénix, ballet. 1956. Orch. Ms


'Musique,' Vie des arts, 1, 2, Jan-Feb, Mar-Apr 1956

'Montreal: La Semaine internationale de musique actuelle,' Canadian Music Journal, vol 6, Autumn 1961

La Prospective et le décideur (Montreal 1988)

"Jean Papineau-Couture: Hommage d'un collègue," Circuit, vol 12 no. 1


Variations. 1944. Str orch. Ms

Variations symphoniques. 1947 (Montreal 1948). Orch. Ms. RCI 1 (J.-M. Beaudet)

Symphony No.1 in B Minor. 1948 (Montreal 1949). Orch. Ms

Guernica, symphonic poem. 1952 (Quebec City 1952). Orch. Ms. Audat 477-4001/CBC SM-4/4-ACM 5 (TSO)

Le Rite du soleil noir, symphonic poem. 1955 (Luxemburg 1955). Orch. Pépin 1990. RCI 155/4-ACM 5 (J.-M. Beaudet)/Bell 1986 (Conservatoire de musique du Québec O)

Adagio. 1947-56. Str orch. Pépin 1985

Ronde villageoise de L'Oiseau-phénix. 1956 (Montreal 1957). Str orch. Pépin1985

Fantaisie. 1957. Str orch. Ms

Symphony No. 2. 1957 (Montreal 1957). Med orch. Ms. RCI 213/RCA CCS-1007/4-ACM 5 (R. Leduc)

Monologue. 1961 (Montreal 1961). Med orch. Pépin 1989

Three Miniatures for Strings. 1963 (Toronto 1963). School orch. OUP 1966/Pépin 1985

Monade I. 1964 (Montreal 1964). Str orch. Pépin 1987. RCA LSC-3128/CRI SD-317 (McGill Chamber Orchestra)

Quasars, Symphony No. 3. 1967 (Montreal 1967). Orch. Leeds 1976. RCI 387/Sel CC-15.101/4-ACM 5 (MSO)

Chroma. 1973 (Guelph 1973). Orch. Ms

Prismes et cristaux. 1974 (Montreal 1974). Str orch. Pépin 1989

Implosion, Symphony No. 5. 1983 (Montreal 1983). Orch. Ms

Soloist(s) with Orchestra

Concerto No. 1. 1946 (Montreal 1946). Pf, orch. Ms

Concerto No. 2. 1949 (Montreal 1949). Pf, orch. Ms

Fantaisie (based on traditional French folksongs). 1957 (Montreal 1957). Ten, SATB, orch. Ms

Nocturne. 1955-9. Pf, string orch. Ms

Hymne au vent du nord, cantata (A. DesRochers). 1960 (Orford 1960). Ten, small orch (piano). Ms

Nombres. 1962 (Montreal 1963). 2 piano, orch. Ms

Monade III. 1972 (Montreal 1972). Vn, orch. Ms

Concerto. 1988. Mar, orch. Ms


Trois Menuets. 1944. Str quartet. Ms

String Quartet No. 1. 1948. Ms. RCI 12/4-ACM 5 (Parlow Str Quar)

Quatre Monodies. 1955. Fl. Leeds 1971. 2-Dom S-69006 (Aitken)/(1980) 4-ACM 5 (Stewart)/SNE-Techni Sonore SNE 665 (C Régimbald, J Riverin)

String Quartet No. 2 'Variations.' 1956. Pépin 1983. RCI 295/4-ACM 5 (Orford String Quartet)

Suite. 1958. Vn, violoncello, piano. Pépin 1988. RCI 514 (Trio de Montréal)

String Quartet No. 3. 1959. Ms. Col MS-6364 (Canadian String Quartet)

String Quartet No. 4 'Hyberboles.' 1960. Ms

Séquences. 1972. Fl, oboe, string trio. Ms

Monade IV - Réseaux. 1974. Vn, piano. Ms

Monade VI - Réseaux. 1974-6. Vn. Pépin 1984

String Quartet No. 5. 1976. Ms

Interactions. 1977. 7 percussion, 2 piano. Ms

Nuclées. 1977. Perc. Ms

Trio No. 2. 1982. Vn, violoncello, piano. Pépin 1982

Monade VII. 1986. Vn, viola. Pépin 1986


Andante. 1939. Ms

Petite étude No. 1, 2, 3 and 4. 1940, 1946, 1947, 1950. (No. 1, 2, 3) West 1948/Pépin 1986; (No. 4) manuscript. (No. 1, 2, 3) RCI 132/4-ACM 5 (R. Pratt)

Thème et variations. 1940. Ms

Andante pour piano. 1943. Ms

Toccate No. 1. 1946. Pépin 1982

Sonate en un mouvement. 1947. Pépin 1980, 1990

Thème et variations. 1947. Pépin 1982

Étude - Atlantique. 1949 (rev 1982). Pépin 1982

Nocturne. 1950. Pépin 1983. DT 2005 (Dimiter Terziev)

Suite. 1951 (rev 1955). Leeds 1973/('Danse frénétique') Pépin 1984. ('Allegro leggiero' and 'Fantaisie en hommage à Arthur Honegger') RCI 135/4-ACM 5 (J. Dufresne)/('Danse frénétique') RCA CCS-1022/4-ACM 5 (Troup)

The Nose, Cradle Song, The Gates of Hell. 1953. FH 1953. (The Gates of Hell) 2-Dom S-69002 (Mould)

Pièces faciles pour piano. 1938-53. Pépin 1982, 1989

Deux Préludes and Petite étude No. 5. 1954. Ms

Trois Pièces pour "La Légende dorée." 1956. Harpsichord or piano. Leeds 1971, Pépin 1987. SHMW CD-001 (Allen Reiser)/APMQ CMC-001 and 002

Ronde villageoise de L'Oiseau-phénix. 1961 (rev 1986). 2 piano. Pépin 1986. CBC SM-61/4-ACM 5 (V. Bouchard)

Toccata No. 3. 1961. Pépin 1983

Pièces pour piano Vol. 2. 1958-95. Pépin 1995

Also several pieces on Musique canadienne pour jeunes pianistes (2-CD set, 1997) APMQ CMC 001 and 002; and Passacaglia (1950, organ, manuscript)

Choir or Voice

Cycle Éluard (Éluard). 1949. Sop, piano. Ms RCI 148/4-ACM 5 (Alarie)/RCI 426 (B. Laplante)

Ave Maria. 1946. SATB, organ. Pépin 1989

Cantique des cantiques (Bible). 1950. SATB, piano. Ms

Mouvement (based on traditional French folksongs). 1958 (Quebec City 1958). SATB, orch. Ms

Pièce de circonstance. 1967. Children's chorus, school instr ensemble

La Messe sur le monde, Symphonie No. 4 (Teilhard de Chardin). 1974 rev edn 1990 for bass, choir, orch). Spkr, SATB, orch. Ms

Paysage. 1987. Sop, clarinet, violoncello, piano. Ms

Trois incantations. 1987. V, piano. Ms.

Te Deum. 1991. Choir, instrumental ensemble

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