Gérard Pesson

French composer (born 1958 in Torteron)

Gérard Pesson is considered one of France's most talented composers. This recognition has brought him numerous official awards and his works are regularly performed by leading French and European orchestras.

After studying musicology at the Sorbonne and writing a thesis on the appreciation of chance music, Gérard Pesson entered the Paris conservatoire (CNSM). He obtained distinctions in musical analysis in 1985 (which he studied with Betsy Jolas) and in composition in 1988 (which he studied with Ivo Malec). In 1986, he founded a journal, Entretemps, devoted to contemporary music. His compositions rapidly drew attention and recognition. He won the Opéra Autrement prize for his opera Beau soir, which was first performed in a concert version at the Avignon Festival in 1989. In 1990, he began a two-year residency at the Villa Medici. During the 1990s, his works were regularly performed at the Festival Présences run by Radio France, including Hommage à Dominique Troncin, by Dominique My and the Ensemble Fa in 1995, Butterfly, le nom by Dominique My and the Radio France Choir in 1996, Mes béatitudes, by Dominique My and the Ensemble Fa in 1998, and Butterfly’s note-book by the Ensemble Alice Ader in 2000. Gérard Pesson also produced the Boudoirs et autres programme on France Musique up until 2014. In 1996, his sextet Récréations françaises was awarded the Prince Pierre de Monaco Prize.

His opera Forever Valley, composed to a libretto by Marie Redonnet, was first performed in 2000 at the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre. Gérard Pesson is also a writer. In 2004, he published Cran d’arrêt du beau temps, a journal in which he talks about his meetings with writers, poets and musicians. He then began working with the choreographer Daniel Dobbels and wrote the music for several of his ballets, including L’Epanchement d’écho (2006) and Danser, de peur (2009). He has been teaching composition at the Paris conservatoire (CNSM) since 2006 and in 2007 was awarded the Berlin Academy of Arts' Music Prize. His concerto Future is a faded song was first performed in 2012 by Alexandre Tharaud and the Zurich Orchestra conducted by Pierre-André Valade. In 2016, the collective "Les Ombres", specialised in the Baroque repertoire, commissioned Gérard Pesson to write a contemporary musical work reminiscent of François Couperin's vocal compositions.

Gérard Pesson's works are regularly performed by numerous ensembles and orchestras in France and abroad, including Ensemble Fa, Ensemble 2e2m, Ensemble intercontemporain, Itinéraire, Ensemble Modern, the Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Ictus, Alter Ego, Accroche Note, Erwartung, the Lyon National Orchestra, the Ile-de-France National Orchestra and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Six landmark dates in the life of Gérard Pesson:
• 1988: graduated with a distinction in composition from the Paris conservatoire
• 1990: composer-in-residence at the Villa Medici
• 1995: first time one of his works was performed at the Radio France "Festival Présences"
• 2000: first performance of Forever Valley in Nanterre
• 2006: appointed composition teacher at the Paris conservatoire (CNSM)
• 2009: first performance of Danser, de peur with choreography by Danial Dobbels

Six key works by Gérard Pesson:
Beau soir, opera (1989)
Mes béatitudes, for piano quartet (1995)
Récréations françaises, pour sextet (1995)
Forever Valley, opera (2000)
Cran d’arrêt du beau temps, literary journal (2004)
Future is a faded song, for piano and orchestra (2012)

Biography compiled from Radio France documentation, December 2014