Thierry Escaich

French composer, organist and improviser (born 1965 in Nogent-sur-Marne)

Thierry Escaich, born in 1965, is an internationally-renowned composer, organist and improviser, and a key figure in contemporary creation. His writing draws on a range of sources, from Gregorian chant to Brahms, Bartók and Messiaen. His body of work comprises nearly 100 compositions and has received numerous international awards.

Thierry Escaich began studying music at the conservatoires in Rosny-sous-Bois and Montreuil before entering the Paris conservatoire (CNSMDP), where he obtained distinctions in eight subjects. He has taught composition and improvisation at the CNSMDP since 1992. He also gives masterclasses in organ, improvisation and composition in France and abroad. His career as a composer gained a solid reputation in the 1990s with works such as Le Chant des ténèbres and Ad Ultimas Laudes for 12 mixed voices. His early works were inspired by sacred music and in particular Gregorian chant.

Today his body of work ranges from instrumental solos to works for symphony orchestra, and includes many pieces of chamber music. His musical universe - which Grégoire Hetzel has described as "made up of dramatic stirrings tensed to exhaustion and the often brutal confrontation of opposing sound worlds" - takes form in orchestral works such as the Kyrie from his Messe Imaginaire (Symphony No. 1, 1991) or the Concerto for Organ and Orchestra (1995) and the Dernier Evangile (2000) for chorus, organ and orchestra. In 2010, he composed The Lost Dancer, a ballet premiered by the New York City Ballet and Benjamin Millepied under the title Why Am I Not Where You Are. Since 2011, he has been the Paris Chamber Orchestra's associate composer. In 2013, his opera Claude,  which is set to a libretto by Robert Badinter based on Victor Hugo's short story Claude Gueux, premiered at the Opéra de Lyon. His compositions are included in the repertoire of major European orchestras, such as the Zurich Symphony Orchestra, the Beethovenhalle in Bonn, the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre du Capitole and the Orchestre de Monte-Carlo, and ensembles such as A Sei Voci, the BBC Singers and the Quatuor Ysaÿe.

The organ holds a prime place in the music he produces as either composer or performer. In his concerts, he likes to mix his own works with those of other composers and link them with improvisations. Since 1997, he has been resident organist at Saint Etienne du Mont in Paris, succeeding Maurice Dufuflé.

Six landmark dates in the life of Thierry Escaich:
1989: first prize in the André Jolivet Composition Competition and the Florence Blumenthal Foundation International Competition.
1991: first prize in the Boellamn-Gigout International Competition (improvisation) and a scholarship from the Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet Foundation
1993: prizes from the Académie des Beaux Arts and the SACEM
1992: appointed writing teacher at the CNSMDP at the age of 27
2002: awarded the Grand Prix des Lycéens prize
2006: second Victoire de la musique prize, in the composer category, after being awarded an initial Victoire in 2003

Six keys works by Thierry Escaich:
1995: Concerto for Organ and Orchestra
1999: L'Heure suprême, music for the silent film of the same name by Franck Borzage, for an ensemble, commissioned by the Louvre Museum
2001: Scènes de bal, for string quartet
2010: The Lost Dancer, ballet for the New York City Ballet
2011: Questions de vie… commissioned by Radio France, for chorus
2013: Claude, opera to a libretto by Robert Badinter, based on Claude Gueux by Victor Hugo 

Official website

Biography compiled from Radio France Documentation, November 2013