His studies at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec and the Paris Conservatory and more importantly the number of seasoned musicians who participated in his professional training, resulted in Tremblay becoming one of the most well-rounded composers of his generation. Indeed, after benefitting from the teaching of Claude Champagne, Jean Papineau-Couture, Isabelle Delorme, Jean Vallerand and Germaine Malépart in Montréal, he moved to Paris where among his studies, he took Olivier Messiaen’s famed analysis courses. His stay in Europe also enabled him to attend summer courses in Darmstadt and to meet some of the pillars of 20th century music.
On his return to Quebec, Tremblay made a name for himself through the analysis courses he offered, first at the Orford Arts Centre, then at the Conservatoire de musique du Québec. In 1962 he was appointed head of the analysis class at the Conservatoire in Montréal and in 1967 he added composition course. Tremblay held both positions until 1997. These courses, entirely inspired by those offered by Olivier Messiaen, were particularly innovative and formative in that the composer linked together key works in the history of music, building bridges between past and present.
From Gregorian chant to the polyphony of Guillaume de Machaut, from Monteverdi to Mozart, and their extension to 20th-century works, Tremblay introduced us to a world where history is not a series of breaks, but rather a continuity in the search for a personal, living expression of music. Gilles Tremblay’s particular approach was also reflected in his works, which, at the rate of almost one new creation a year, enriched the repertoire of Quebec classics which have enjoyed world-wide presentation.
Tremblay, better than any other composer, was able to blend these two extremes: tradition and modernity into a coherent whole. While being eminently of his time, the composer always refused to break with the history of language. This was the strength of his course of analysis: the value he placed on tradition. This is what is reflected in his work.