Claude Vivier the greatest composer Canada has yet produced. At the age of 34, he was the victim of a shocking murder, leaving behind some 49 compositions in a wide range of genres, including opera, orchestral works, and chamber pieces. György Ligeti once called Vivier "the finest French composer of his generation."
Born in Montréal, Vivier studied at the Conservatoire de Musique. In the fall of 1976 a visit to Bali caused Vivier to reevaluate his ideas concerning the role of the artist in society, initiating a new period in his stylistic evolution. In the wake of this journey he wrote Shiraz (1977) for piano, Orion (1979) for orchestra, and his opera Kopernikus (1978–79). Above all, it was in his cycle of pieces for voice and instrumental ensemble, particularly Lonely Child (1980) and Prologue pour un Marco Polo (1981) that Vivier's unique style crystallized. In a New York Times profile, Paul Griffiths observed, "The harmonic auras are suddenly more complex, and the fantastic orchestration is unlike anything in Vivier's earlier music, or anyone else's…”
Vivier advocates include Mauricio Kagel, Kent Nagano, Reinbert de Leeuw, David Robertson, and Dawn Upshaw. Vivier's music featured prominently in Holland Festival 2005, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra opened its 2005–06 season with Lonely Child, with David Robertson conducting and Dawn Upshaw as the soprano soloist. In 2005, the Montréal Symphony Orchestra inaugurated the Claude Vivier National Prize for the best work by a Canadian composer.