B i o g r a p h y
Born in 1928 in Bordeaux into a musical family, his mother being the renown harpist and musician Micheline Kahn, Jean-Michel Damase showed precocious musical talent. His studies began at an early age; when he was five he began the Samuel-Rousseau courses in piano and solfège.
Damase began composing at the age of nine. After Colette, his mother's friend, heard song settings of her poems, she wrote three "poèmes d'animaux" especially for him. When he was twelve, he became a pupil of Cortot at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, and in the next year he joined Armand Ferté’s piano classes at the Paris Conservatoire.
In 1943, he was unanimously awarded the Premier Prix in piano at the Conservatoire. Two years later he entered Henri Büsser's composition classes and began to study harmony and counterpoint with Dupré. At nineteen, he won the first prize in composition with his Quintet for flute, harp, violin , viola, and cello and his cantata Et la belle se réveilla won him the Prix de Rome. In the meantime, his career as a pianist was flourishing; he appeared as soloist in the Colonne and Conservatoire concerts and with the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion et Télévision Française (l'ORTF).
Damase's youthful compositional maturity helped to foster a considerable technical facility and he has produced a great deal of music in a style that is attractive and elegant, remaining close to the traditions of the Conservatoire. All his works show deep knowledge of the possibilities of instruments, and his orchestration is rich, full and varied; evidenced most notably in the chamber and concertante works.
Damase has a great admiration for Fauré and Ravel. As a pianist, he has made award-winning recordings of many of their works. He is also great lover of ballet and a close friend of several leading choreographers. His first ballet score was La Croqueuse de diamants (The Gold Digger) written for Roland Petit and first produced at the Marigny Theatre in Paris. The complete ballet is also featured in the film Un, Deux, Trois, Quatre (1960).
After touring the world as a piano soloist and winning the Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings, Jean-Michel Damase has devoted his activities to composition and teaching. He serves on the boards of numerous international musical organizations and societies, judges competitions, and conducts master classes in Europe, the United States and Japan. He was awarded the Grand Prix Musical de la SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) and the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris.
* Edited/Corrected from "Jean-Michel Damase: Catalogue of works" published by Editions Henry Lemoine. Additional material provided by Chez Damase.