The music of Jean Lesage calls into question, in a highly personal manner, our relationship with musical objects, and their evocative power and ability to generate mental images. His approach is revelatory, in the first sense of the word, in that it leads listeners to situate themselves toward and to react to a musical statement that appeals to their cultural memory. Organist and harpsichordist by training, Jean Lesage has revived the idea of the “character piece” in an original way, through an artistic discourse that flows from “musical personae” in forms that are highly recognizable, often invoked for their particular connotative meaning. As such, Lesage’s music represents both an exploration of and a melding with the musical understanding of Québecois culture.
Jean Lesage pursued his musical training with Gilles Tremblay for composition and analysis, Micheline Coulombe St-Marcoux and Yves Daoust for electronic music, Clermont Pépin for orchestration, and with Mireille Lagacé for harpsichord.
Jean Lesage is very active on the Montréal music scene : he has been an advisory member of the Association pour la Création et la Recherche Électroacoustique du Québec, a program coordinator for the Société des Concerts Alternatifs du Québec, and between 1990 and 2011, a member of the artistic committee of the Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec.
From 1987 to 1995, he was also a reporter for the program Musique actuelle, broadcast on Radio-Canada’s FM radio. For the same network, in the summer of 1996, he produced and hosted Musique du Québec, a series of 12 programs on Québec’s musical modernism. He is also on the editorial board of Circuit, Contemporary Music Journal since 2005.
From 1995 to 2009 Jean Lesage has been regularly invited as a composer and a teacher at the Rencontre internationale de musique nouvelle at Domaine Forget.
In 1997 and in 2008, he has been guest editorial director for Circuit, for special issues on Montreal composers and on the music of Claude Vivier.
Since 1999, Jean Lesage has been teaching composition, music analysis and orchestration at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University.
To be noted among the 50-odd works he has composed so far are: —Mare Fecunditatis (1986), for piano , CAPAC Prize 1987 —Trois apparitions au désert (1988), for mixed choir and large orchestra, Robert Flemming Prize from the Canadian Music Council 1988. —Le sentiment océanique (1989), for eight instruments, commissioned by the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal (ECM), presented at UNESCO’s 1995 Rostrum of Composers, in Paris —Les sensations confuses (1993), for chamber orchestra, commissioned by the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, premiered in Strasbourg at the Musica1993 Festival —Masques et chimères (1996) for eleven instruments, commissioned by the ECM. —Les représentations surannées (1998) for orchestra, commissioned by l’Orchestre symphonique de Québec premiered in Québec at the Musique au présent Festival 1999. —Le livre des mélancolies (1999) for clarinet and string quartet commissioned by the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec. —Portrait of a Sentimental Musician in a Distorting Mirror (2000) for violin and piano, commissioned by the CBC for Duo Concertante. —String Quartet I (2001), —String Quartet II (2002), —String Quartet III (2005) commissioned by the Quatuor Bozzini —Les mécanismes multiples de l’ivresse et de la nostalgie (2004) for large orchestra, commissioned by Radio-France et Radio-Canada, —Le projet Mozart (2006) commissioned by Trio Fibonacci, —Plaisirs anciens (2008); for a capella choir commissioned by Viva Voce and —Beatitudines (2011) commissioned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.