Nouvel Ensemble Moderne | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Nouvel Ensemble Moderne

Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM). This 15-member contemporary music ensemble was founded in Montreal by pianist/conductor Lorraine Vaillancourt in 1989.

Nouvel Ensemble Moderne

Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM). This 15-member contemporary music ensemble was founded in Montreal by pianist/conductor Lorraine Vaillancourt in 1989. Original members included Jacques Drouin (piano), Claude Hamel (violin), Alain Giguère (violin), Julien Grégoire (percussion), Brian Bacon (viola), Claude Lamothe (cello), René Gosselin (double bass), Guy Pelletier (flute, piccolo), Gilles Plante (clarinet), André Moisan (clarinet), Michel Bettez (bassoon), Normand Forget (oboe), Francis Ouellet (horn), Lise Bouchard (trumpet), and Alain Trudel (trombone).

The NEM was the first chamber ensemble devoted exclusively to the presentation and dissemination of contemporary music in Canada. The ensemble has won praise from critics and audiences alike for their high performing standards and their efforts to promote contemporary music.

The group gave its first concert in Montreal 3 May 1989; this performance was followed six months later by one at Weill Recital Hall in New York. Of the latter, Allan Kozinn wrote that the performance was "as polished as one would expect from collaboration of much longer standing" (New York Times, 15 Nov 1989). Shortly after these appearances, the NEM was appointed ensemble-in-residence at the University of Montreal. The success of the group may be largely attributed to the strong working relationships among the members, as well as to Vaillancourt's exemplary conducting skills and her ability to choose new repertoire.

Touring and Festivals

The NEM has toured extensively throughout Canada and the US, and in England, France, Belgium, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan. The ensemble appears regularly at major festivals including the Bang on a Can Festival in New York, Festival Musica in Strasbourg, the Fondation Royaumont, and, closer to home, the New Music Symposium at Domaine Forget (annually since 1994) and the Festival Internationale de Lanaudière. The NEM works in collaboration with cultural organizations within and outside Canada, including Chants Libres (a new-music operatic company), Codes d'Accès (a concert society 2002-04), the Goethe Institute, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, La Tarasque (a musical theatre company), the Banff Centre for the Arts, and the International Music Council of UNESCO.

Promotion of New Music

The commissioning and premiering of music by young composers plays a large part in the NEM's activities. In 1991, the group established a four-week workshop, Le Forum International des Jeunes Compositeurs (International Forum of Young Composers). Organized in conjunction with the University of Montreal Faculty of Music and Radio-Canada, the event is held every two years.

An example of the group's dedication to the premiering of new works is that of a concert at Montreal's Salle Claude-Champagne in October 1991. Six new pieces by as many composers were presented, including those by two Canadians: Inouk Demers' Lo que Vendra, and Brian Current's For the Time Being. Lo que Vendra later appeared on a 2004 Atma recording featuring works commissioned by the ensemble, which also included Isabelle Panneton's Travaux et jeux de gravité, Jean Lesage's Vanitas, and José Evangelista's Alap & Gat. A 2007 Atma recording featured more commissions: Michael Oesterle's Annus Mirabilis (premiered by the NEM 27 Apr 2005), Serge Provost's les ruines du paradis (premiered 21 Apr 2004), and Gilles Tremblay's À quelle heure commence le temps? (commissioned in 1999 and premiered 27 Nov 1999).


The NEM has over 20 recordings on the New World Records, Composers Recordings Inc., Amberola, Stradivarius, Ummus (University of Montreal), Ambiances Magnétiques, Disques Montaigne, and Atma labels. It has produced CDs with the University of Montreal, the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), Les Percussions de Strasbourg, the Festival Musica 93, CBC/Radio-Canada, and Radio France.

Honours and Awards
The Nouvel Ensemble Moderne has received numerous prizes, including several Opus awards as well as the Lauréat-musique au Grand Prix 93 from the Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal (CACUM). Other CACUM prizes were given in 1995 for their performance of Berg's Wozzeck (re-orchestrated by John Rea); the NEM also received a special CACUM recognition award in 2004.

Selected Discography

The conductor is Lorraine Vaillancourt except where specified otherwise.

Gentile/Benjamin/Saariaho/Ligeti. 1990. Ummus UMM102

Mather/Longtin/Rozankovic/Rea. Ducharme baritone. 1991. Ummus UMM105

Barbara Kolb - Millefoglie and other works. 1992. Music Today Ensemble/Schwarz. New World Records 80422

Forum 1991. 1992. Ummus UMM108

Are You Experienced? (Music of David Lang). Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Vaillancourt and others. 1994. Composers Recordings CRI625

Forum 1993. 1994. Ummus UMM108

Speaking in Tongues. 1996. Ambiances Magnétiques AM118

Jonathan Harvey 2. 1996. Disques Montaigne MO782086

Forum 96. 1998. Amberola AMBC 7100

Forum 98 - Beilharz, Azevedo, Plamondon, Rayeva. 2000. Amberola AMBC 7141

D'un siècle à l'autre (From One Century to the Next). 2000. Disques Montaigne MO82083

Bhakti (Music of Jonathan Harvey). 2002. Disques Montaigne MO782128

Elliott Carter. 2002. Atma Classique ACD22280 2002

Forum 2004. 2004. Atma Classique ACD22375

Playing Guitar: Symphony #1 (Tim Brady). Ambiances Magnétiques AM125

Forum 2000/2002. 2005. Atma Classique ACD22328

Works by Jacques Hétu and André Prévost. Dyachkov cello, Saulnier piano. 2005. Doberman-Yppan DO505

Pablo - Works for Chamber Orchestra. 2006. Atma Classique ACD22353

Maldonado Exabrupto. Vaillancourt and Maldonado conductors. 2006. Stradivarius 33719

Quelle Heure Commence le Temps? 2007. Atma Classique ACD22376

Further Reading