Thierry Escaich


Organist, Composer

Escaich composes in many genres and forms, always exploring new sound horizons. His catalogue numbers over one hundred works which, with their lyrical, rich harmonies and rhythmic energy, have attracted a wide audience. Drawing from the French line of composition of Ravel, Messiaen and Dutilleux, and imbued with references from contemporary, folk and religious music, the distinctive sound-world of Escaich’s music is anchored by an obsessive rhythmic drive and an overarching sense of architecture.

This very personal style encompasses both intimate works and large-scale pieces, such as the Chaconne for Orchestra, the oratorio Le Dernier Évangile and a double concerto for violin and cello - Miroir d’ombres. His first opera Claude, to a libretto by Robert Badinter after Victor Hugo's Claude Gueux, was premiered at the Opéra de Lyon in March 2013 to great acclaim. His most recent new works include a double concerto for Lisa Batiashvili and François Leleux co-commissioned by the NDR Sinfonieorchester Hamburg and the New York Philharmonic, Psalmos, a concerto for orchestra, premiered by the Cincinnati Symphony, and Organ Concerto No 3 which will receive its world premiere under Escaich with the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa in 2017.

Escaich has composed many opuses for the organ including solo works, two concerti and the symphonic poem La Barque solaire for organ and orchestra. Escaich’s Organ Concerto No 1 has been performed by orchestras such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon, and was selected as a highlight of the organ concerto repertoire in Gramophone magazine: “His concerto exploits the full sonic and colour ranges of orchestra and organ in this thrilling three-movement work, the second movement rising to an awe-inspiring climax only topped by the shattering coda of the finale.” (September 2014)

His works are performed by leading orchestras in Europe and North America and by musicians such as Lisa Batiashvili, François Leleux, Valery Gergiev, Lothar Zagrosek, Renaud and Gautier Capuçon, Emmanuelle Bertrand, Paul Meyer, John Mark Ainsley and the Quatuor Voce. Escaich has been Composer-in-Residence with the Orchestre National de Lyon, the Orchestre National de Lille and the Paris Chamber Orchestra, and his music has been honoured by three Victoires de la Musique awards (2003, 2006 and 2011).

Since 1992, Thierry Escaich has taught composition and improvisation at the Paris Conservatoire, where he himself studied and obtained eight "premiers prix". In 2013 he received the honour of being appointed to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Thierry Escaich’s career as a composer is closely linked to his career as an organist, which has led him to be one of the ambassadors of the great French school of improvisation, following in the wake of Maurice Duruflé, whom he succeeded as organist of Saint Étienne du Mont in Paris. He appears in recitals internationally, combining repertoire pieces with his own compositions and improvisations. His passion for cinema has led him to perform "cine-concerts", improvised accompaniments on both the organ and piano for silent films such as Phantom of the Opera and Metropolis.

Highlights of the 2016-17 season include the world premiere of Organ Concerto No 3, co-commissioned by the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa, the American Guild of Organists and the Orchestre National de Lyon. He will appear at the Aix-en-Provence Easter Festival, including the world premiere of a new sextet and a composer-portrait concert focusing on Escaich. Elsewhere this season, Escaich will perform recitals at the Wiener Konzerthaus and the Münchner Orgelherbst and has engagements with the Mariinsky Orchestra, the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre d’Auvergne and the Athens State Orchestra in addition to performing improvisations to silent films at the Auditorium de Lyon and with Radio France.

Many of Escaich’s works have been recorded by Accord/Universal. Most recently the disc Les Nuits hallucinées (2011), which crowned his residency with the Orchestre National de Lyon, received numerous acclamations, including a Choc de l’année from Classica magazine as an outstanding release of the year. Most recently a DVD was released of his opera Claude from the world premiere at the Opéra de Lyon conducted by Jérémie Rhorer.

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