John Rea

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1944

  • Composer

During every musical season for the last number of years now, Montreal composer John Rea brings forth new and imaginative compositions. In 2012, Ikaros agog … Daidalos on edge, for large symphony orchestra commissioned by the Esprit Orchestra, received its world premiere in Toronto. Between 2009-11, he transcribed several Études pour piano by György Ligeti for the percussion ensemble Sixtrum. The year 2007 saw the première of his Singulari-T (Tombeau de Ligeti), for chamber ensemble. In 2006, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra presented his violin concerto, Figures hâtives, a commission of the MSO; earlier in 2005, first performances of Accident: Tombeau de Grisey took place in Paris and Montreal.

As to his re-orchestration for 21 players of Alban Berg’s operatic masterpiece, Wozzeck, commissioned and first performed by the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne in 1995 at Banff (Canada): many productions have taken place since then around the world, the most recent at San Francisco, and Portland (Oregon) in 2010, Meiningen (Germany) in 2011, and at Salzburg (2012) and in France (2013).

Recently, he completed a re-orchestration for 28 players of Berg’s Op. 6, Three Pieces for Orchestra. The world première of this work will take in March 2015 at Winterthur (Switzerland) given by the Musikkollegium, who together with the NEM jointly commissioned this version.

Among other of his creative projects: Beauty dissolves in a brief hour, music theatre for two sopranos and accordion (2009), commissioned and premièred by Queen of Puddings (Toronto); Schattenwerk, for two violins (2003), commissioned by and premièred at Scotia Music Festival (Halifax); I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man ([Man/Butterfly] 2002), for 27 musicians and Disklavier, commissioned and premièred by the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec; Sacrée Landowska, music theater for actress/harpsichordist and eight musicians (2001), commissioned and premièred by Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal.

In addition to his activities as a composer, John Rea has lectured and published articles on new music and, since 1973, has taught composition, music theory, and history at McGill University where he served as Dean of the Faculty of Music (1986-1991), today the Schulich School of Music. He recently completed long tenures on the editorial board for the French-language new music journal, Circuit: musiques contemporaines, and the artistic/programming committee of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec.

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