The music of Claude Debussy has been near and dear to French composer-pianist Denis Levaillant; his love for the iconic composer stemmed from his earliest musical experiences, starting with the Debussy Preludes for piano: “Well, when I was 11, my teacher suggested to prepare a piano contest with two Debussy’s Preludes. I remember to have definitively loved ‘La Fille aux Cheveux de lin’ and ‘Canope’. So I learned them both, and won the contest…” What an auspicious beginning of a long journey with Debussy’s music! In honor of Debussy on the centenary of his death, Levaillant has composed a new work, Prelude 2018, which will receive its world premiere on March 24, 2018, by pianist Nicolas Horvath on Debussy’s own Blüthner piano at the Musée Labenche in Paris. The piece will be heard across France at various locations in spring and fall of 2018.
Levaillant’s love for Debussy’s music does not stop with his piano music. Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune is one of the composer’s most favorite orchestral pieces; Levaillant considers the work as “one of the best orchestral pieces ever written”, and he finds it “astonishing”; he is especially enamored with the work’s “imagination, new colors, modality, images, timbral fusion.” Levaillant continues to pay tribute to Debussy by arranging “La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin”, as well as Deux Arabesques (originally for piano solo) for Mozart-size orchestra. This July in Zagreb, Croatia, Levaillant’s new arrangement of “La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin” for ten saxophones will receive its world premiere at the World Saxophone Congress.
Levaillant is one of the most prolific composers in today’s France. A proponent of “New French Music”, Levaillant navigates comfortably between the time-honored tradition, as well as the new harmonic paths of contemporary French music. As a performer, Levaillant has appeared in his native France and around the world, performing many of his own classical piano works, and as part of a touring jazz trio. (Check out this video of Levaillant performing his own work, Portrait de György Cziffra, paying tribute to the legendary Hungarian virtuoso pianist, as well as displaying his own fiendish piano skills!) His works have been commissioned and presented by the Avignon Festival, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Louvre, Radio France, the Paris Opera, La Musique des Gardiens de la Paix, etc. The French saxophone master, Jean-Michel Goury, is a great champion of Levaillant’s music, with many of the composer’s saxophone works commissioned and premiered by him.
At the core of Levaillant’s new works and arrangements is an ear for color and orchestration that would make Debussy proud. These new additions to his diverse catalog not only celebrate but continue to reaffirm his own place in the French music continuum. Discover more of Denis Levaillant’s music, writings, and publications on his newly updated website.