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Music Archives at the National Library of Canada

MUS 165

Mathieu family fonds.  - [ca. 1880]-1986 (predominant 1920-1960).  - 2.38 m of textual records.  - 672 photographs.  - 34 negatives.  - 1 tintype.  - 8 drawings. 

Biographical sketches
Rodolphe Mathieu (1890-1962):  Son of Olivine Arcand and Octave Mathieu, Rodolphe Mathieu was born in Grondines, near Québec.  Introduced to music by his sisters, he left his native village at around age 16 and moved to Montréal, where he studied piano with Alphonse Martin and singing with Céline Marier.  Then, propelled by the vigour of his youth and his creative demands, he began studying harmony, counterpoint and composition with Alexis Contant.  At age 17, he was appointed first organist at Saint-Jean Berchmans Church and simultaneously began a music teaching career. 

In 1920, he left for Paris, financially assisted by his friends, to further his musical training.  Enrolled at the Schola Cantorum, he studied composition with Vincent d'Indy and orchestration with Louis Aubert.  In addition, during those seven years, he studied conducting with Vladimir Golschmann and, at the Collège de France, took Pierre Janet's experimental psychology course.  His training in psychology, far from being frivolous, helped him in designing his educational work entitled Tests d'aptitudes musicales.  In 1923, living in extreme poverty, he obtained after numerous requests, the first grant from the Quebec government awarded to a composer. 

Returning to Montréal in 1927, he devoted himself to teaching and composition.  First teaching at the Institut pédagogique, run by the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, and at the convent of the Sisters of Ste Anne at Lachine, he ultimately founded his own music school, the Canadian Institute of Music, in 1929.  The school quickly gained a reputation, as did the Soirées Mathieu, concerts organized by Rodolphe Mathieu to promote young composers and Canadian talent. 

Rodolphe Mathieu composed numerous works, including a string quartet, a trio, a quintet, 22 Dialogues for violin and cello, sonatas and an impressive quantity of vocal music.  In addition to his Tests d'aptitudes musicales, he also wrote, among other things, a treatise on creativity (Problèmes - Aperceptions), a collection of thoughts (Pensées et Anecdotes) and a range of articles on music and art in general (L'Étatisation de la musique, Le Sentiment amoureux en art).  Innovative and original, Rodolphe Mathieu's music was frequently misunderstood by his contemporaries, even scorned. 

André Mathieu (1929-1968):  Son of Rodolphe Mathieu and Wilhelmine Gagnon-Mathieu, André was born in Montréal.  He was fascinated from a very early age by the world of music and composed his first pieces for piano at the age of 4 (Les Gros chars, Trois études).  The following year André Mathieu gave his first recital at the Ritz-Carleton Hotel.  The audience was rapturous, exalted by the works of the small prodigy.  In 1936, under the baton of J.-J. Gagnier, he performed his Concertino no 1 on the CBC network.  That same year, he obtained a Government of Quebec bursary.  The young artist left Montréal with his family and moved to Paris to study piano with Yves Nat and Mme Giraud-Latarse and composition and harmony with Jacques de la Presle.  A few months later, he won over Parisian critics with his recital in the Chopin Pleyel Hall.  The event was repeated in the Salle Gaveau in March 1939; critics were unanimous:  the "young Canadian Mozart" was born. 

In 1939, André Mathieu returned to Montréal for a holiday, but the beginning of the war blocked his return to Europe.  Forced to remain in America, he undertook a series of concerts in Canada and debuted at New York Town Hall.  From 1940 to 1943, he lived in New York, studying composition with Harold Morris.  In 1941, he entered the young composers' competition organized by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra; he won first prize with his Concertino no 2, and his talents as a composer were confirmed again.  Finally, returning to Montréal in 1943 and remaining until the summer of 1946, he gave numerous concerts while continuing to compose (Sonate no 1 pour violon et piano, Concerto de Québec). 

The fall of 1946 marked a decisive turning point in André Mathieu's life; he had to come to terms with himself, to try his own wings, leaving for Paris alone, to study composition with Arthur Honegger and piano with Jules Gentil.  Unhappy in Paris, he returned to Montréal in 1947, depressed and exhausted.  André Mathieu had just lost his first fight, a critical battle for independence.  After that year, he was tormented and melancholy, no longer the same man.  With the passage of time, he succumbed to alcoholism, abandoning his concert career.  He took part in a few ridiculous "pianothons", trying desperately to beat records, in events which were inspired more by the circus than by music.  He did continue to compose, however, and to teach.  His notable works included a trio for violin, cello and piano (1949), a quintet (1953), a symphonic poem, Mistassini (1954), and a Rhapsodie romantique for concert band.  The artist died suddenly at age 39.  A prolific composer, he left a legacy of diverse and sensitive music. 

Wilhelmine Gagnon-Mathieu (1910-1976):  Wilhelmine Gagnon was born in SaintConstant to Jean-Arthur Gagnon, the village doctor, and Albina Proulx.  She was educated by the Dames du Sacré-Coeur, and also studied violin with Alfred De Sève.  On December 10, 1928, she married Rodolphe Mathieu, with whom she had two children:  André and Camille (1931).  Although she was a good violinist, she devoted her life to her children and to teaching.  In 1958, she founded a small private school, L'Oiseau Bleu. 

Scope and content
The records in the fonds pertain mainly to the musical career and private life of Rodolphe and André Mathieu and relations between various members of the Mathieu family.  Material concerning the Canadian Institute of Music and the Soirées Mathieu also illustrates Rodolphe Mathieu's involvement in Montréal music circles. 

The fonds contains biographical material; personal and professional correspondence; musical works; writings (thoughts, articles, poems, essays, notes); invitations; notarized documents; civil documents; contracts; copyright material; school work; report cards; examination questions; diplomas; radio texts; concert programmes; concert tickets; membership cards; financial records; publicity; travel documents; posters; annotated published scores; press clippings; and drawings and photographs, mainly of the Mathieu family. 

The fonds consists of the following series:  MUS 165/A Rodolphe Mathieu; MUS 165/B André Mathieu; MUS 165/C Wilhelmine Gagnon-Mathieu; MUS 165/D Other family members; MUS 165/E Manuscript, printed and annotated music by various composers; MUS 165/F Drawings; MUS 165/G Photographs; MUS 165/H Collection of press clippings; MUS 165/I Posthumous records. 

Immediate source of acquisition:  acquired in 1984 from Marie-Ange Mathieu, André Mathieu's widow, and Éric Le Reste, Rodolphe Mathieu's grandson. 

Restrictions:  Copyright on all of the records in the fonds, except André Mathieu's musical compositions, is the property of Éric Le Reste.  He authorizes the National Library of Canada to make copies of these records, but wishes to be informed in the event of publication of manuscript textual records or performance of a musical work.  As regards manuscripts of André Mathieu's music, copyright remains the property of Marie-Ange Mathieu; no copy of manuscript works may be made without her written permission. 

Finding aids:  Stéphane Jean.  - The Mathieu Family fonds:  Numerical List .  - Ottawa:  National Library of Canada.  - 1997.  88 p. 

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