IN MEMORIAM | Spanish Canadian Composer José Evangelista Has Died At 79

By Anya Wassenberg on January 13, 2023

L-R (clockwise): José Evangelista (Photo: Justine Latour); Claude Vivier, Lorraine Vaillancourt and José Evangelista (Photo courtesy of the artist), Evangelista with kids at an event at the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) (Photo courtesy of SMCQ)
L-R (clockwise): José Evangelista (Photo: Justine Latour); Claude Vivier, Lorraine Vaillancourt and José Evangelista (Photo courtesy of the artist), Evangelista with kids at an event at the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) (Photo courtesy of SMCQ)

Spanish-Canadian composer José Evangelista has died at the age of 79 on January 10, 2023. Born in Valencia, Spain in 1943, Evangelista spent his professional life in Canada, and left a mark on Montréal’s music scene and well beyond.

He studied computer science and physics along with music and composition with Spanish composer Vicente Asencio at the University of Valencia. In 1967, he earned a degree in computer science, as well as the first prize in music composition.

After relocating to Montréal in 1969, he resumed his studies the following year with composer André Prévost at the Université de Montréal, where he earned a Master of Music in composition. He went on to study with Bruce Mather at McGill University, where he earned a Ph.D. in composition in 1984.

Kent Nagano & the OSM premiere José Evangelista’s Accelerando (with an Octobasse) in 2016.

Evangelista became a professor at the Université de Montréal in 1979, where he taught for three decades before retiring in 2009. Samy Moussa and Ana Sokolovic were among his students

A prolific composer of orchestral and vocal works for small and larger ensembles, Evangelista was known for melodic compositions that often featured Spanish influences, as well as the gamelan orchestra and its rhythms. During his time at the Université de Montréal, he created the Balinese Gamelan Workshop based on traditional Indonesian orchestras.

Sinfonia Toronto, Nurhan Arman, Conductor perform José Evangelista’s Air d’Espagne, recorded live on April 7, 2017 at the CBC Glenn Gould Studio

His passion for Southeast Asian music included periods of living and studying in Indonesia and Burma in 1976, 1980, and 1986. He served as composer-in-residence at the Akademi Musik Indonesia in Yogyakarta in 1986. He co-founded Traditions musicales du monde, an organization devoted to promoting non-Western music.

Accolades and honours

  • He attended the Darmstädter Ferienkurse for contemporary music in 1974, and a decade later was named a composer-in-residence there;
  • He was a member of the Canadian League of Composers, the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores, and an associate of the Canadian Music Centre;
  • He was composer in residence with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal for two years starting in 1993;
  • His piece Nuevas monodías españolas was nominated as classical composition of the year at the Juno Awards in 2005;
  • He received the Émile-Nelligan Foundation’s Serge-Garant Prize for his life’s work in 2019.

Violinissimo (1992) was recently featured in a Toronto concert by Esprit Orchestra.

His contributions to contemporary Canadian music will be missed.

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