André Mathieu was born in Montreal on February 18, 1929. He received his first music lessons from his father Rodolphe Mathieu, and was already composing little piano pieces by the age of four. Noël Strauss of The New York Times wrote that even Mozart, the greatest musical prodigy of all time, only began composing at the age of four, and his first works were much simpler in nature than those of the young Canadian. André Mathieu astonished audiences far and wide with his pianistic prowess from a very young age: at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal at six, in the Salle Pleyel and Salle Gaveau in Paris at seven, in Carnegie Hall, New York at ten. Rachmaninov pronounced him “a genius, more so than I am.”
André Mathieu undertook composition studies in Paris, then later in New York, and after World War II again in Paris. Most of his works are short piano pieces, but only about a quarter of his known compositions – well over two hundred – have been located thus far, and much research remains to be done. His compositions have yet to be properly catalogued (there are reportedly more than 200 of them). Among Mathieu’s major works are Concerto de Québec, Piano Concerto No 4) and Rhapsodie romantique for piano and orchestra.
André Mathieu’s fame peaked around 1950. Thereafter he continued to compose, but the world took little notice. He indulged in day-long “pianothons,” suffered a disastrous love affair, turned to alcohol, and died in poverty on April 18, 1968, at the age of 39. Much about the life of André Mathieu remains unknown, including the exact cause of his early death.