Michaël Levinas

French pianist and composer (born 1949 in Paris)

Michael Levinas is a major figure on the current musical scene, leading a dual career as pianist and composer, with an additional role as teacher. Michael Levinas likes to offer audiences a mixture of timeless piano repertoire (Bach and Beethoven) and contemporary compositions. He belongs to the spectral music school, but has a distinctive, very personal style.

Michael Levinas is the son of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. He studied at the Paris conservatoire (CNSM), graduating with distinctions in piano, accompaniment, chamber music, harmony and counterpoint. His teachers included Vlado Perlemuter, Yvonne Lefébure, Yvonne Loriod and Olivier Messiaen. After finishing his formal studies, he completed a residency at the Villa Medici, took courses with Stockhausen and Xanakis at Darmstadt, and did workshops with the GRM group of music researchers.

His performing activities have included playing and recording Bach's complete Well-Tempered Clavier and Beethoven's 32 Piano Sonatas, for which he presented several workshops on the France Musique radio station. His discography, as a pianist, ranges from Bach to Boulez. As guest performer at leading European contemporary music festivals, he has played Stockhausen, Boulez, Messiaen and Ligeti. He has also given the first performances of works by his contemporaries (Nunes and Murail).
In his own compositions, he likes to explore timbre and acoustics (Appels, Ouverture pour une fête étrange, La Conférence des Oiseaux). He works not only on the pure sound that generates the harmonic spectrum, but also on all of the unusual sounds that don't fit into categories.
He believes that any work, even an instrumental work, leans towards a theatrical dimension. He composes operas (Les Aragon (1998), Go-gol (1996), based on 'The Overcoat' by Nicolas Gogol, and La métamorphose, based on Franz Kafka (2011)).
He also teaches, and has been a teacher at the Paris conservatoire (CNSM) since 1987. He teaches composition in some of the most prestigious centres of learning and new music venues, such as Darmstadt, Royaumont and the Barcelona conservatoire.

Six landmark dates in the life of Michael Levinas:

1972: His earliest works (including Arsis et Thésis) were premiered at the Royan festival
1973: He was one of the founding members of the Ensemble Itinéraire alongside Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey
1975: Residency at the Villa Medici
1987: Appointed to teach analysis at the Paris conservatoire (CNSMDP)
2004: Recital tour performing Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, inaugurated at the Cité de la musique
2009: Elected to Jean-Louis Florentz's chair at the Académie des Beaux-Arts

Six key works by Michael Levinas:

1979: Ouverture pour une fête étrange, for two orchestras and an electro-acoustic system
1985: La conférence des oiseaux, premiered at the Paris Biennial by the Ensemble Itinéraire
1988: La cloche fêlée, premiered on Radio France on 8 February 1990 by the Orchestre National de France
1993: Rebonds, premiered by the soloists of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France
2004: Les nègres, opera, premiered in Lyon
2012: De l’amphithéâtre, commissioned by Radio France and premiered with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France

Official website

Biography compiled from Radio France musical documentation