The music of Canadian composer Maurice Blackburn in this premier performance of his Charpente: Canadian Forest, written in 1944 and featuring the CBC Symphony of Montreal, conducted by Jean-Maurice Beaudet. Part of a war-effort radio series produced by the CBC; Canadian Music In Wartime, broadcast in September of 1944.
From the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Joseph Albert Maurice Blackburn, composer, conductor, sound editor, instrument builder (born 22 May 1914 in Québec City, QC; died 29 March 1988 in Montréal, QC). A composer of great stylistic diversity, Maurice Blackburn wrote music for some 150 films — documentaries, fiction and animation — as well as award-winning symphonies, operas, concertos and solo piano works, many of which have been performed regularly in concert. In a career at the National Film Board spanning nearly 40 years, Blackburn composed scores for some of the key films in the development of Québec cinema, including Jane Marsh’s Alexis Tremblay: Habitant (1943), Gratien Gélinas’ Tit-Coq (1953), Claude Jutra’s À tout prendre (1963), Jean Beaudin’s J.A. Martin, photographe (1977) and Anne Claire Poirier’s Mourir à tue-tête (1979). He was also well known for his long collaboration with animator Norman McLaren, which resulted in such films as La Poulette grise (1947), A Phantasy (1952), Blinkity Blank (1955), and the Oscar-nominated A Chairy Tale (1957) and Pas de deux (1968). He was awarded the Prix Albert-Tessier in 1983.
In 1938, Blackburn’s orchestral suite Les Petites Rues du vieux Québec won second prize in the Jean Lallemand composition competition. In 1939, he received a scholarship from the Québec government to study in Paris, but due to the Second World War he instead went to the New England Conservatory in Boston (1939–41), where he studied composition and counterpoint with Quincy Porter, and orchestration and conducting with Francis Findlay. In 1940, he attended lectures given by Igor Stravinsky at Harvard University, conducted the Québec Symphony Orchestra in his Fantaisie en mocassins and won the Philip R. Allan prize for his Sonatina for piano.
In 1941, at the request of the NFB, he composed his first film score for Maple Sugar Time. From 1942 to 1948, he composed or arranged the music for some 30 documentaries, including Alexis Tremblay: Habitant (1943) and Science Goes Fishing (1946). With Norman McLaren, he perfected the technique originated by Belgian composer Arthur Hoérée of etching sound and picture directly onto film.
Blackburn’s many symphonic works were performed in concert during his career at the National Film Board. His symphonic poem, Charpente, was premiered on the CBC by Jean-Marie Beaudet in the 1944 series Canadian Music in Wartime. It was performed again by Beaudet at the 1946 Prague Festival, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1946 and by the Montréal Youth Orchestra in 1948.
Blackburn’s music, some of which was inspired by folklore, some by contemporary music, was known for being lively and colourful. Many of his works, including Concertino in C for piano and winds (1948), possess some of the characteristics — namely the propulsive rhythm — of early-20th century French music, especially that of Honegger and Poulenc. In his book Musique (Montréal, 1945), Léo-Pol Morin described Blackburn as “imaginative, impulsive, a vibrant and caustic poet, one whose chief concern is to give expression to the responses of his mind through music. A creator of images, he has a gift for colour and design, and the stories he tells are original, vivid, and spontaneous.”
Here is that premier performance of Maurice Blackburn’s Charpente: Canadian Forest as broadcast in September of 1944.