After about sixty vocal and instrumental works from the soloist instrument
to the full orchestra, Jean-Claude Wolff, contemporary composer,
devoted to an opera, for which he received the support of the Foundation
Beaumarchais (January 2005). He now plans to work on pieces mixing music and fine art and also works on sacred music.
Jean-Claude Wolff was born on October 27, 1946, in Neuilly-on
the Seine (92).
He made his beginning in composition, in a traditional form and style,
In 1963 and 1964, readings of romantic German writers,
such as Hoffmann, Novalis, Chamisso, Hölderlin, Rilke, T. Mann and
Hesse made him discover several topics which would haunt his thought
and his works : night, melancholy, roaming, confrontation with death.
In 1964, he decided to devote himself to the musical
composition, and entered the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique
de Paris (CNSMP) in 1966, to continue his studies in music
history, analysis, harmony and counterpoint.
In 1968, he met with Henri Dutilleux. "He opened
my eyes on the essential curiosity, but also on the insistent and
constant necessity of the choice".
During summers in 1968, 1969 and 1970, he studied with Franco
Donatoni at the Accademia Chigiana di Siena (Italy). At this time,
Jean-Claude Wolff considered Franco Donatoni as "a Latin serialist
who also made me know the thought of John Cage".
In 1969, he met and studied with Jean-Pierre Guezec.
He was fascinated by his attitude, "mix of extreme kindness and absolute
1969 to 1974, he studied composition at the CNSMP, with
Andre Jolivet, Maurice Ohana, Henri Dutilleux, Michel Philippot and
In 1972, studies with Jean-Etienne Marie made him discover
a "listening like electroacoustic of the instrumental music".
In 1974, he got the first prize of composition at the C.N.S.M.P.
From 1970 to 1975, he watched several times nearly all the
films by Bergman and immediately felt a great complicity with the
nordic universe, in the set of themes, expression, aesthetics.
From 1978 to 1980, he had a residence at the Academy de France
in Roma, Italy (Villa Medicis). First true contact and sometimes enthusiastic,
sometimes critical or perplexed reactions, concerning Italy and Latin
civilization. Friendship with several other boarders, especially painters
and sculptors, which continues today.
In 1979, Jean Claude Wolff composed the "Symphony
n° 2 for violin and orchestra", a significant work in
which he tried "the synthesis of a developed melodic writing and an
evolution of orchestral material in moving clusters", influenced by
Xenakis and Ligeti". He also got the first Prize at the Musical Youths
International Competition (Belgrade).
In 1980, he composed "Night", for soprano and string quartet,
on a poem by Max Jacob. It was his first vocal works, and "the desire
of a synergy between text and music, of a complicity between words
and sounds, between verbal significance and musical direction" was
From 1980 and 1985, he composed the "Symphonies n° 1,
n° 3, n° 4". In these works, a great attention was given to
the form ; "the violence of the sound masses tries to be put at the
service of a vast overall, perceptible architecture without being
Between 1984 and 2002, many works of instrumental chamber music
were written. In these pieces, the composer more and more researched
on melody and harmony, with a great attention in the various aesthetic
trends of the musical world. But he never submitted to trends or watchwords,
and obstinately refused an adhesion with any "school" or "coterie".
In 1989, he settled in Aix in Provence. This city generated
a delicate confrontation between the secret, dark and introvert nature
of the composer and the bright Mediterranean light. Reflexions on
the evolution of the musical language. Rereading of works by Adorno,
Boucourechliev and frequent reading of the New Testament, the Apocalypse,
and some passages of the Old Testament (Genesis, Psaumes).
In 1991, the film-maker Camille Guichard produced a short film,
"the shades of the sin", starting from his work "Nuit".
In this occasion, the composer gained a renewal of interest for cinema
through Bresson, Rohmer, Rivette, Resnais and Kubrick.
In 1992, he got a residence at the Foundation of art "Henri
Clews" in Napoule (06) and finished his "Symphony n° 5".
In 1993, he met Rory Nelson, a poet, writer and musician. It
was the beginning of a long-lived friendship and a fertile collaboration,
which started in two works: "Symphony n°6, Elements d'une traversee"
(1994) and "L'inquietude" (1995).
In 1997, Jean-Claude Wolff returned to live in Paris,
where he could have a enthusiastic or critical but always full of
interest look, on the musical world and its evolution, its practices,
its syntax and its aesthetics.
1997 to 2002, he composed three works for piano: "Crepuscules",
"Onze Preludes" and
From 1998 to 2000, he also turned his attention to vocal
music, with works such as "Psaumes", "le lointain
le plus proche", "Poemes de revolte" and "
Poemes d'alliance". These
two last works are due to a meeting with Andrée Chedid, a warm and
sensitive personnality who "made me discover the light of the Eastern
On 2000, 22 December, his father died. Perhaps the composer
had had a presentiment of that when he had written his trio "
at the beginning of the year.
In 2001, he started to be interested in Tibetan Buddhism, but
"without succeeding in establishing a link nor a complementarity with
the Judeo-Christian tradition which is in me".
In 2002, he met with François Szabo, a French of Spanish expression
poet, who made him sense the violence and the strengh of this culture.
He composed on some of his texts excerpt from "Paginas
de invierno", a sort of Spanish and contemporary "Winterreise".
Then, as he wished to compose an opera for a long time, he encouraged
his friend Rory Nelson to write a booklet from his novel "le Quatuor".
This opera, which composition is in progress, will be in five parts,
with a prologue, three acts and an epilogue, and will be written for
seven voices and orchestra.
2006 : Résidence, from october, at the Abbaye de La Prée (Fondation "Pour Que
l'Esprit Vive"). He finished the second act of his Opera "Le Quatuor".
He wrote many short works for voice and piano ( "Deux mélodies
russes", "Trois chansons mélancoliques", "Trois chansons cruelles"), with an emphasis on the text-music relationship.
2007 : The residence in l'Abbaye de La Prée continue. He started writing the las act of his Opera . Intense writing activity: for the
"Rencontres Musicales de La Prée", he wrote "Cinq Mantras" , for piano, and "Je me souviens", for wind instruments , a tribute to G. Perec. He also wrote "Passage(s)", for orchestra, and "Les chants du rosaire", on poems by G.Trakl, for soprano and instruments électronic musical instruments.
2008 : End of the residence at "l'Abbaye de La Prée" (september). He wwrote , "Chemins de traverse" for cello "obbligato" and string orchestra, and the "Magnificat" for six women voices. Beginning of many projects on sacred texts including some extra-europeans musical instruments, particularly the Koto
2009:End of "Le Quatuor" opera writing.
Jean Claude Wolff write for the movie "Pensées-du-Japon" by his firend Yann Kassile, short piano pieces, gathered in the cycle: "Allusions".
2010: The composer stays in Paris, but he still often stays at the Abbaye de la Prée. A l'initiative de Fabienne Morel, cinéaste, He wrote there the music for a stage d'un spectacle vivant "Murmures d'archive", mixing un montage de films d'archives amateurs, du théâtre, et une musique originale pour ensemble vocal et instrumental dirigé par le compositeur. Enfin il vient de terminer une pièce instrumentale, "Le vertige du funambule", inspirée de certaines toiles du peintre Pascal Fancony. Ces dernières oeuvres témoignent de l'orientation de certains de ses projets ultérieurs, qui tenteront de marier différentes formes d'expression artistique, sans négliger les oeuvres purement "musicales", en particulier autour de textes sacrés.
2011: Premiere at the "Théâtre de Nîmes": Symphony number 8, which mixes both traditional instruments amplified and a prerecorded soundtrack. Guest composer at the "Printemps musical d'Annecy," he presents his work at two conferences on the occasion of the creation of "Fragment d’exil" piece for cello and piano. Premiered in May in the United States (Purchase College Institute, New York) "Pratea" of liturgical resonance, indicating an influence of the sacred, which is a concern in recent years, including in instrumental works.
2012: New show in collaboration with Fabienne Morel, which is like a following from their meeting in 2010. Under the title of "Mémoire lointaine", this show has been represented several times at festivals in the French Centre region. In the same idea of binging closer different forms of expression, the composer wrote original music for a film by Yann Kassile around the Provençal years of Van Gogh. Finally, Jean-Claude Wolff composed a song cycle "Le guetteur mélancolique" on Apollinaire's poems.
2013: The composer has dedicated this year to several chamber music works: a work for saxophone sopranino and small ensemble, a piece for viola principal, two guitars and bass and a piano piece of some magnitude, "Exil d'enfance".
2014: Composition of a vast cycle "par les chemins..", for wind quintet, "chemin crié" for bass clarinet and piano, "chemins croisés" for wind quintet and piano; composition of a work for solo flute and 24 flutes, "Symphonic Songs". This partition, and "Ma petite colombelle ..", with texts by Ronsard, can be considered as the beginning of an orchestral work in which the composer dream for some years.