Last year, Montreal’s world-renowned Arion Baroque Orchestra was in a period of transition as Founder Claire Guimond began the process of stepping back from her position as the Artistic Director. This year, Mathieu Lussier takes up that role as he continues to play bassoon with the orchestra.

Claire Guimond said; “When I went through my mental rolodex of all the potential candidates to take my place, I realized that my successor was right there in front of me – that it should be Mathieu Lussier. Mathieu has the musical experience and the management experience to manage Arion. Mathieu checked all the boxes… he’s an excellent musician, has a solid understanding of early music, has maturity, has a great personality, and he knows all of our partners.”

Mathieu comments; “When Claire approached me with the idea, I recognized it as a great opportunity for me at this time in my life. At 46, I’m in the middle of my career and I love to be on stage. I have management experience as a tour manager, Associate Dean at Université de Montréal, and I served as Chairman of Conseil quebécois de la musique. So, I’m looking forward to part of my dual roles with Arion. And as Claire said, I already know our partners and I have a sense that they have confidence in me.”

Mathieu Lussier has an impressive resumé. He was the artistic director of the Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival from 2008 to 2014, has been a guest conductor with L’Orchestre Métropolitain, Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and I Musici.

Continuing, Mathieu states; “This is a challenge for me and the whole orchestra. It’s Claire’s life work that I’m taking on and it’s a big responsibility. She’s planned this transition to the last detail, and that has been immensely useful.”

I asked Mathieu what drew him to the bassoon as a young music student. With a laugh, he responded; “I picked bassoon to be sure that I would get into Pierre-Laporte, since they were looking for bassoon players and despite the fact that I had no idea what a bassoon was!”

“I believe that audiences are attracted to baroque music because it’s peaceful and relaxing. It’s built on chord progressions that are pleasing to the ear – in fact they are similar to progressions used in popular music – even rock ‘n’ roll. There is the use of effective repetition, with a solid baseline and melody. Baroque music has a lot of similarity to jazz, which uses a baseline to support the melody. For example, I consider Vivaldi to be the Phillip Glass of the 18th Century.”

“Baroque music ensembles are relatively small in number, and that provides enough musical ‘space’ for improvisation, using the score as a basis. This is attractive to both the musicians and the audience.” Mathieu adds; “With a small ensemble – each musician has to carry their musical role effectively, there’s nowhere to hide.”

In addition to his roles as musician and administrator, Mathieu is also a composer. “I wrote my first piece in 1996 for a bassoon quartet. Since then I wrote half the score for Denys Arcand’s film, The Fall of The American Empire. I’m writing to showcase the bassoon, to show that it can be a sensual and expressive instrument.”

“This season is an opportunity for Arion to thank our audiences, to our musicians and especially to Claire. We invite Montrealers to come to our concerts to hear this fine group of musicians playing baroque music that is so pleasing to our ears.”

Arion Baroque Orchestra opens the 2019-2020 season at Bourgie Hall on Thursday, October 17 with a program titled Telemann In Paris with Mathieu Lussier conducting. The next concert, Bach: Mass in B Minor will be on Friday, November 29 with guest conductor Andrea Marcon. The January 9 concert; Mozart Dawn of Revolution will feature guest conductor Alexis Kossenko at Bourgie Hall. Hank Knox will be the guest conductor at Bourgie Hall for a Bach program titled Shadows and Light on February 27. The season concludes on May 14 with guest conductor Boris Begelman and a Handel program titled Organ Concertos and Other Delights.

Each series of two hour concerts at Bourgie Hall is presented three times during a weekend; Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 4:00pm (perfect for an after concert dinner) and Sundays at 2:00pm. There is a one-hour shorter program on Thursdays at 6:00pm, which includes a pre-concert glass of wine. The November 29 concert at the larger Église Saint-Jean-Baptiste for one night. The Tickets are available online at: Season subscriptions by telephone: 514-355-1825. Enjoy!