William Bruneau & David Gordon Duke. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2005; 216 pp; ISBN: 1-55380-023-0, paper $22.95 ca.
Jean Coulthard demonstrated that a Canadian woman could be a successful professional composer, whose music was, and still is, played extensively in concert halls across Canada and internationally. Through her seven-decade career she composed in every genre of traditional classical music: opera, symphonies, concerti, chamber music, keyboard, voice and choir. Coulthard’s story was more than that of artist and teacher. She made a place for herself in a male-dominated university and, as a westerner, she fought for the artists of her community. As a traditionalist she upheld aesthetic values she believed important for her and her audience. This insightful biography shows that behind the productivity and the contented family life, there were intriguing personal and professional friendships, international travel and cultural politics. She knew and learned from Bartók and Schoenberg, yet in the end, she went her own Canadian way. The Coulthard story is deeply interconnected with 20th century Canadian art, and with the rise of Vancouver from provincial outpost to Pacific Rim metropolis.
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