Jean Coulthard (1908 -2000)


01French Impressionism Makes Its Mark20160111
01French Impressionism Makes Its Mark20160111

Donald Macleod explores Coulthard's earlier works.

Canadian composer Jean Coulthard (1908-2000) was a woman who determinedly followed her own musical path, creating an impressive body of work which, though attracting international recognition during her lifetime, is rarely heard today outside her native country.

Coulthard produced around 350 works in her very long career, for many years fitting composing around her job as a university lecturer and the responsibilities of family life. She was fortunate in having a musical mother whose passion for the French Impressionist composers rubbed off on her daughter, as is is clearly evident in her earlier works. Donald Macleod introduces a selection of works in which echoes of that distinctive soundworld can be heard, including a lament inspired by the chorale theme from a Bach cantata, and a piano concerto in the grand tradition of Beethoven and Schumann.

The Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night Long

Campbell Trowsdale, violin

CBC Vancouver Orchestra

Mario Bernardi, Conductor


Réa Beaumont, piano

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Robert Silverman, piano

Dwight Bennet, Conductor

Four Irish Songs (orchestrated by Michael Conway Baker)

Linda Maguire, mezzo soprano

02Expanding Horizons20160112

Donald Macleod on how WWII gave Coulthard the opportunity to improve her writing skills.

The outbreak of World War II brought European artists to the USA and Canada and gave Coulthard the opportunity to study with a number of established composers, including Arthur Benjamin. He encouraged her to write for orchestra and incorporated her music into his concert series. Coulthard spent much of the war in New York where she benefitted from lessons with the Dutch composer Bernard Wagenaar, who helped her consolidate a new-found confidence in her writing. Donald Macleod introduces a sonata in which that new sense of certainty shines through, plus an early orchestral work with evocations of happy holidays, a choral song which reflects the spirit of renewal in post-war Canada, and music to celebrate the patron saint of music.


University of Alberta Madrigal Singers

Excursion Ballet Suite

Symphony Nova Scotia

Georg Tintner, Conductor

Music to St. Cecilia for organ and strings

Patrick Wedd, organ

Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra

Mario Bernardi, Conductor

Cello Sonata

Joan Harrison, cello

Elaine Keillor, piano

Quebec in May

Elmer Iseler Singers

CBC Vancouver Orchestra

Elmer Iseler, Conductor.

03Challenges And Opportunities20160113

Donald Macleod explores Coulthard's year studying in Paris in the 1950s.

In the early 1950s Coulthard's role as lecturer in music theory at the University of British Columbia came under threat, and she was asked to leave. She managed to retain her position but was thankful to be offered a scholarship to study in Paris, where she took classes with Nadia Boulanger. Coulthard resolutely continued to develop her own brand of musical expression, ignoring the critics who berated her for refusing to embrace current trends. Donald Macleod explores works from this period when her style began to change including two very different sets of variations and a setting of poems by Canadian poets in honour of the centenary of the founding of British Columbia.

Villanelle (Cello Sonata)

Ofra Harnoy, cello

Michael Dussek, piano

Music on a Quiet Song

Timothy Hutchins, flute

CBC Vancouver Orchestra

Mario Bernardi, Conductor

Variations on B.A.C.H.

John Ogden, piano

Les Chansons du Coeur

Caroline Schiller, soprano

Kristina Szutor, piano

Music to St. Cecilia

Foundation Philharmonic Orchestra

David Snell, Conductor

Spring Rhapsody

Maureen Forrester, contralto

John Newmark, piano.

04Farewell To Teaching20160114

Donald Macleod introduces works from the years surrounding Coulthard's retirement.

Though she was out of step with musical fashions in Canada, Coulthard's reputation kept on growing. Regular broadcasts across the USA and parts of Europe attracted an international audience to her music. When she celebrated her 65th birthday in 1973, she was forced to retire from her teaching post at the University of British Columbia. But retirement gave her more time to compose and she got involved in publishing educational material for teachers. Donald Macleod introduces a selection of pieces from the years surrounding her retirement including a set of piano pieces inspired by reminiscences of an Aegean cruise, and a work for two quartets written as a farewell to her university life.

Young and Golden Haired (Six Mediaeval Love Songs)

Jon Vickers, tenor

Richard Woitach, piano

Aegean Sketches

Elaine Keillor, piano

Sonata Rhapsody for viola and piano (1st movement)

Robert Verebes, viola

Dale Bartlett, piano

Twelve Essays on a Cantabile Theme

Purcell String Quartet

University of Alberta String Quartet.


Donald Macleod introduces music from the final decades of Coulthard's life.

In the final decades of her life, Coulthard devoted her time to composition, and continued to work until her death in 2000 at the age of 92. She remained an active traveller, with more visits to the UK where a performance of her 2nd String Quartet at the Cheltenham Music Festival was received with great acclaim. Donald Macleod introduces the third movement from the quartet plus an orchestral piece based on folksongs from across Canada, two pieces with nature themes, and one of her final piano pieces whose title, she says, "describes how the heavenly bodies provoke our imagination".

Lyric Sonatina for Flute and Piano (3rd movement)

Mark Takeshi McGregor, flute

Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, piano

Canada Mosaic (Introduction and Three Folksongs)

CBC Vancouver Orchestra

Mario Bernardi, Conductor

String Quartet No.2 (3rd movement)

Thomas Rolston, violin

Lawrence Fisher, violin

Michael Bowie, viola

Claude Kenneson, cello

Image Astrale

Charles Foreman, piano

The Secret Garden (Gardens)

Sherman Friedland, clarinet

Dale Bartlett, piano

Of Fields and Forests

Rita Costanzi, harp

The Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night Long

Campbell Trowsdale, violin