Denis Levaillant, classical music composer

Denis Levaillant


Since 1973, this French composer and pianist, born in Paris in 1952, has developed a catalogue of highly varied works covering a vast range of expression (opera, ballet, symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles, choruses, soloists, electro-acoustic, radio pieces…). He began studying the piano at the age of six, recorded Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales when he was 12 and played Mozart concerti with his professor, Magdeleine Mangin, who also initiated him in the basics of writing (harmony, counterpoint…).

In the early 1970s, he abandoned the classic course, having decided to acquire the broadest possible professional experience. Fascinated by dance, jazz, improvisation and the circus, from this 'in vivo' training period he would draw the material for his book L'improvisation musicale (1980), which has become a reference on the subject. In 1973, he also wrote his first radio work, Circus Virus, for the Atelier de Création de France Culture, and this was the beginning of a long creative collaboration with the radio, which would lead to his winning the RAI Prize for Speakers at the Italia Prize in 1988. During the same period, he earned a Master's in philosophy (1974).

At the beginning of the 1980s, he embarked upon the adventure of live entertainment and, with his company, Bleu 17, created musical spectacles combining singing, theatre, magic, instruments, lighting and sound in new forms. Since Deux Pièces à Louer, premiered in 1983, he has written some 15 singular shows marked by a powerful imaginative universe, up to the most recent, Un petit rien-du-tout tout neuf, first performed at the Théâtre du Rond-Point (Paris) in April 2006. Some of these have created a considerable stir, in particular Les Passagers du delta, first performed in trio with the American jazz musicians Barre Phillips and Barry Altshul, and his opera O.P.A. Mia (My Tender Bid), premiered in 1990 at the Avignon Festival, directed by André Engel with costumes and sets by Enki Bilal.

He has enlarged his palette of expression by participating in the beginnings of digital sound treatment (at the INA-GRM, the Music Research Group of the National Audiovisual Institute), applying these new techniques to instrumental writing: from Piano Transit (1983) up to the recent ElektroSpacePiano (2003), by way of Drama Symphony (1995), this research has remained constant in his work. With Les Pierres noires, for mixed chorus (1984), he began original research on harmony and vocal polyphony, which he has continued to go into in greater depth.

These productive years also witnessed numerous collaborations with choreographers (D. Bagouet, D. Petit, C. Marcadé, B. Lefèvre...) and stage directors (in particular, Alain Françon).

At the onset of the 1990s, he devoted most of his creative efforts to symphonic and instrumental writing, this resulting in important works such as his Piano Concerto 'Echo de Narcisse' (1995), String Quartet No.2 'Le Clair, l'Obscur' (1997), Concerto for Orchestra 'Paysages de Conte' (1998) and the Tombeau de Gesualdo, for counter-tenor and 12 mixed voices (1994). His collaboration with record producer Frédéric Leibovitz allowed him to see most of his catalogue recorded and regularly synchronized in television and films. In 1995, the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Louvre commissioned him to write music for Fritz Lang's last silent film, Frau im Mond. In 1999, he created a new full-length spectacle, Eloge de la Radio, first performed at Radio France's 'Présences' Festival in 2000.

In 2002, the Paris Opera commissioned a symphonic ballet, La Petite danseuse, which met with great success. In 2005, he composed l'Opéra de la lune, for orchestra and narrator, based on a story by Jacques Prévert.

1983            Villa Médicis ('beyond the walls': New York City)

1988            Italia Prize

1998            Permanent member of SACEM

Composer Title Date Action
Denis Levaillant Des Harmoniques ( live rec ) 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Denis Levaillant En inversant ( live rec ) 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Denis Levaillant Une Barque sur le Niger ( live rec ) 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Denis Levaillant Avec des Si... 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Denis Levaillant Suite africaine 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Denis Levaillant Coucou Hibou ! 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist