Composer, pianist, writer



The Composer

‘Denis Levaillant is a noted composer and pianist, with a very original and personal itinerary. His work concerns a broader public that the classical "contemporary" scene: he has worked for diverse audiences and contexts, and he is very keen on communication with the public, for which he has been very successful. He is gifted, talented, and energetic.’

Jean-Claude Risset

‘You are one of the most talented composers I have ever met in all of my years of business.’

Danie Cortese, publicist, Canada.

‘What a concerto ! It knocked my sox off. This is a magnificent music.You really are an extraordinarily gifted composer, you are something else, my friend.'

Leni Bogat, writer (USA).

'On the strength of the music alone it provides the expected beauty, as well as the fine intelligence one has by now come to expect from Denis Levaillant. It is Levaillant’s ability to move suddenly from the Impressionist to the highly dissonant and back again that is most impressive. His versatile musicianship is truly extraordinary, and the music treads the fine line that separates jazz and classical expertly'

Colin Clarke, Fanfare (USA).

'What we must mention first is the dramatic, almost cinematographic, quality of this music: a colourist to see better in imagination (La Prison or, at opposite extreme, the ineffable melody of the central movement of Écho de Narcisse), Levaillant pushes fantasising in sound to the furthest.'

Gérard Condé

'Between sounds and colours, as well as between Paris and New York, composition and interpretation, writing and improvisation, construction and play, popular and "highbrow", tonalism and atonalism, fusion and explosion, lyricism and virtuosity, mystery and transparency…, Levaillant invents a new art, at the crossroads.'

Benjamin Lassauzet

'The voluntarist eclecticism to which Denis Levaillant's vast repertoire attests, always marked by the constant need for expression, makes him a modern humanist-musician, one of these creators whose originality lies in being totally themselves in full objectivity, sometimes to the point of crudity, without taboo, inclusive.'

Jean-Marie Londeix

Pachamama Symphony, Paris 2016

'The event of the evening was the first performance of Denis Levaillant's Pachamama Symphony, a work in six movements inspired by the native music of Andean countries. We were entitled to a kaleidoscope of colours, rhythms, playing styles (the beginning, with the brass blown 'open'), in an orchestration as sophisticated as it is effective, for a music in which incantations mix with nocturnal atmospheres.'

Thierry Vagne
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Manhattan Rhapsody, DLM éditions, Paris 2014.

« Allow me to present to you (the exception confirming the rule) Manhattan Rhapsody, a work for tenor saxophone and piano by Denis Levaillant, a French composer eminently representative of current music and one of the most brilliant we know.This piece, even though written in traditional technique (and thereby immediately accessible to the public) uses an idiomatic language of the instrument. It is this success, typically ‘French’, that I am pleased to recommend to you, as quality works for tenor sax are not all that numerous… »

Jean-Marie Londeix
Professeur honoraire du Conservatoire de Bordeaux (France).

Les Passagers du Delta, DLM éditions, Paris 2013.

'Attention: masterpiece! Denis Levaillant, piano, Barre Phillips, double bass, Barry Altschul, drums, 'jazz trio'. Masterpiece of the idea. Masterpiece of recording. Masterpiece of the object. Three top-notch instrumentalists.'

Francis Marmande, Le Monde.
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Paysages de conte, DLM éditions, Paris 2012.

'Here is a free, Protean personality whose eclecticism will not surprise and who permits himself a slow movement in D flat at the centre of his piano concerto, Echo de Narcisse (1996), otherwise of an 'irreproachable' modernity. In fact, the six works making up this anthology of recordings do not hesitate to resort, in an expressive and dramatic aim, to quite a varied palette of styles and atmospheres. Hence the undeniable success of the Suite drawn from his ballet La Petite Danseuse (2003, commissioned by the Paris Opera). It is also by a Suite of six excerpts that we discover his intensely poetic evocations for Fritz Lang's silent film Woman in the Moon (1995), in which an octet, expanded by real-time electronic processing, occasionally turns into an orchestra. Research on sonorities and rhythmic verve characterise these scores, which draw as much on jazz as on electroacoustic, whilst maintaining a typically French concern for colour.'

Simon Corley, Concertonet.

Echo de Narcisse, concerto pour piano et orchestre

'It is the first CD that will more particularly interest piano fans since it includes, first of all, a concerto for piano and orchestra lasting some 30 minutes: Echo de Narcisse with composer Denis Levaillant himself at the keyboard (recording from 1998), music that is quite compelling and expressive. As often in three-movement concertos, the second movement is slow and - this is not always the case - extremely beautiful [...] and would deserve to be played as much as the Ravel Concerto in G of our day…'

Agnès Jourdain

Fantasy for bassoon and piano (2012)

'This Fantasy for Bassoon and Piano, composed by Denis Levaillant, impresses me with the singularity of its writing and its originality, with this disconcerting character, its somewhat strange, totally unpredictable aspects, which make it seem that it could not have been written by anyone else. Here we find characteristic elements of his musical universe: an accepted taste for Impressionism à la française, the influence of jazz, and the sense of film music. In an atmosphere of lights and shadows full of subtleties, this is a little gem of poetry and dreaming, and the balance of form and unity of style leave me in admiration and make me an overjoyed dedicatee.'

Paul Riveaux, basson solo de l’Ensemble Intercontemporain.

La Petite danseuse de Degas, ballet de l’Opéra de Paris, un DVD Arthaus Muzik, Berlin 2011.

‘When the choreographer of La Petite Danseuse de Degas heard Denis Levaillant’s Piano Concerto, he was so impressed that he not only contracted Levaillant to write the music for his ballet but also used the music of the Concerto’s Andante in the ballet. Denis Levaillant’s interesting mix of tonal and atonal music - sometimes gleaming, diamond-hard and often favouring batteries of percussion, particularly xylophone and tubular bells - spans many styles from the baroque to modernism and jazzy figures via Late Romanticism and Impressionism. An inspired and visually ravishing creation. This ballet deserves to go from success to success.’

Recording of the Year, MusicWeb International, December 2011.
Ian Lace,

‘Easily the best work here and the biggest surprise, La Petite Danseuse de Degas is an exceptional and exceptionally powerful ballet that might now be my favorite ballet Blu-ray next to the Criterion Collection release of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger’s The Red Shoes. If I were introducing the art form to someone, I would show them this disc. ‘
Nicolas Sheffo, Fulvue Drive-in (USA), June 2011.

‘ Denis Levaillant's score is quasi-minimalist, but not in the more typical Philip Glass or John Adams way. Levaillant takes phrases longer than the typical Glass motive and then subtly permutates them through slowly undulating harmonic changes. The score is largely string driven, with occasional flashes of percussive fury, and as strange as this may sound, I personally found it very redolent of some of jazz orchestrator and composer Claus Ogerman's orchestral pieces with Michael Brecker, filtered through a sort of quasi-Ravelian intelligence. This is often very pretty, even ravishing, music.’

Jeffrey Kauffman, (USA), June 11, 2011.

'The music of the ballet was commissioned by the Paris Opera from composer Denis Levaillant. Very rich, it calls for a luxuriant orchestra and plays on quite beautiful colours. The handling of timbres is noteworthy, and the dynamic, like the variations in rhythms and tonal or atonal colours, ideally suits the choreographic expression. From the very first bars, it becomes obvious that Patrice Bart has succeeded in using the musical structure naturally to express himself. Beginning with the ballet's short Prologue, one will appreciate the theatricality of the approach and the clarity of writing..'

Philippe Banel, 2011 Tutti Ovation 10/10.

Music Is The Film, Universal, (2010)

'Thank you for having thought to send me your CD Music Is The Film. Beyond the sound evocation of the films evoked, I very much enjoyed the music itself. And then, a particular bravo, of course, for Insomnie, which touched and moved me. You knew how to find the 'right note'…

Alain Corneau, 11 april 2010.

L’Opéra de la lune, Radio-France, Paris, Gallimard-Jeunesse, 2006, 2008

“The scope of Denis Levaillant’s composition is surprising. It is much more than a sound illustration—it is a veritable imaginary cinema, in turn dreamlike, dancing, harsh, a score of considerable lyricism integrated into a modern epic. It gives the spectator time to dream, to go to the moon. An incarnation of French art, this work is an unmitigated pleasure.”

Jean-Christophe Le Toquin, ResMusica , December 2008.
Clef de Sol du site ResMusica.

Un Petit rien-du-tout (2006), Théâtre du Rond-Point, Paris, 2006

‘Denis Levaillant has written a joyful marche macabre. Accompanied by actress Irina Dalle, Levaillant chants, recites and sings this tender, ‘trash’ Carrot Top. The pianist-actress duo is as poetic and violent as the dialogue of the narrator and orchestra in Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale.’

Sandra Bash, Elle, 20 March 2006.

“Denis Levaillant, who has always been the companion of theatrical and choreographic adventures, was a friend of Maurice Roche’s, and there is, in this brief, delicate show, all the power of affection and admiration. This is a lovely moment, elegant and refined, that is offered to us.”

Armelle Hélio, Le Figaro, 26 March 2006.

“It lasts an hour, and one wishes it would never end.”

Impact Médecine, 23 March 2006.

Eloge de la Radio (2000)

‘Denis Levaillant’s Éloge de la Radio clearly won over the audience. The show runs perfectly, staging the different languages that radio art possesses: speech, music and sound effects. Here is a successful show, popular even though sophisticated - something that is quite rare…’

Diapason, Decembre 2000.

Piano Circus (1993)

‘Denis Levaillant’s latest show is a fable of the pianist grappling with his instrument—this sort of devotions box—with its repertoire and anxieties. All this fairly subtle material is the framework of Piano Circus, a framework that Denis Levaillant manages very well to translate musically. On the one hand, with his knowledge of electro-acoustics, making an effect suddenly appear from a loudspeaker, down to the second; on the other hand, with the music he interprets: personal compositions drawing on Conlon Nancarrow for their rapid delivery, with a few attempts at seduction (a passage à la Keith Jarrett, full of irony). Making this uncompromising music, a flow of notes, be heard displays a fine audacity.’

Christian Leblé , Libération, 17 December 1993.

O.P.A. Mia, opéra (1990 Avignon/Strasbourg/Paris)

‘Denis Levaillant has done an exceptional job here. The orchestral part, interpreted on stage, is extremely rich, accumulating the muffled atmosphere, the bustling of business and more lyrical lines accompanying the singing. Electroacoustics play a considerable part in this show: first of all, to balance the orchestra—more powerful than if it were in the pit—in relation to the singers, thereby making the text perfectly comprehensible (Denis Levaillant imposes nearly two hundred different effects on his control room, a veritable tightrope-walker’s job!) […] The whole [is achieved] with disconcerting richness and imagination.’

Christian Leblé, On the front page of Libération, 11 July 1990.

‘The musical language remains modern, without concessions to the Neo-romanticism that is highly prized in the genre, without looking towards rock or jazz ; the instrumental and vocal writing takes inspiration from forms of the past (the chorale, Baroque polyphony, dances) in a spirit of constant experimentation. Varied timbres, constant attention to prolonging vocal moods, melting or abrupt responses depending on the episodes… all attest to the attention focused on the cohesion between recorded choruses, arias, spoken texts and orchestral commentary.’

Isabelle Mil, La Tribune de Genève, 13 July 1990.

‘For the broad public that Musica, the international festival of today’s music, seeks to win over, this is a total success. The music resembles a large puzzle, combining orchestra, recorded choruses and tapes of sounds from everyday life. The sonorities remain sufficiently familiar so as not to be limited to just an elite of enlightened connoisseurs. Concerning this music, even the show’s musicians, members of the prestigious Ars Nova ensemble, admitted that ‘for once, it was written.’

Véronique Buttin, AFP, 22 Septembre 1990.

Speakers (1988, Italie)

Winner of the Gian Franco Zaffrani Radio Prize in the music category. The prize (Special Jury Prize) was attributed unanimously “for the originality of this eminently radiophonic work and the excellence of the performance of the two lead actors who integrate perfectly into the musical context.”

‘Among the works to which I was most sensitive—at very most six or seven out of the 23 presented—, some are noteworthy for their text: original and skillfully written. With Speakers by Denis Levaillant and Madeleine Sola, the listener can appreciate this conjunction of text and sound. This is a musical work, certainly, but also truly radiophonic: the narrative blossoms, takes its full value under the impetus of the sound. The work was recognized by the festival since it was honored with a special prize.’

Emmanuelle Bouchez,Télérama, 5 October 1988.

Les Pierres noires (1984, La Rochelle, London, Paris)

‘Denis Levaillant has produced an extraordinary neo-romantic study, swooning and desperate, in Les Pierres noires. Its sumptuous effect arises as much from its extremely ingenious contrapuntal texture as from its exacerbated harmonies.’

David Murray, Financial Times, 25 June 1985.

Barium Circus, Avignon 1984

‘Basically, Levaillant uses two approaches in creating the music here. The first emphasizes formal organization (in the sense of traditionally notated lines): the creation of suites in miniatures. But, in constructing theses miniatures, it would seem that he was intent on not having the written parts played too strictly. Much of the time, the players, utilized as a sextet on the opening and the closing, execute the composed parts with a ‘loose tightness’ that is most engaging (and an important tool in several schools of Jazz). Inventiveness, strong musicianship (both in terms of individual work and group empathy), variety and conciseness mark this 40’19 recorded 2/10/84. It’s the best circus this reviewer has ever heard.’

Milo Fine, Cadence, December 1985.

Deux Pièces à louer (1983)

‘This show filled the auditorium of the Paris Museum of Modern Art, a success too rare in musical theatre not to be saluted. Here, theatre and music find a perfect balance. The three main characters occupy the stage remarkably; a veritable dialogue is established between the partners on stage and a finely-worked sound tape.’

Brigitte Massin, Le Matin, February 1983.

Douze Mouvements (1980)

‘Douze Mouvements for piano: so many states of music, each constructed round one idea. Studies of resonance in the hollow of the sound. Preludes open onto infinity, sculpted from full matter. And always this near-narcissistic art of possession…’

Christian Goubault, Paris Normandie, 22 January 1989.


The Pianist


‘We find here Denis Levaillant in a brilliant and sensitive interpretation of piano sonatas of Haydn. Its mastered technique and its acute sense of the improvisation bring a particular color tuned to these small jewels of the big Haydn’

Robert Leroux, UNSA, France, Octobre 2018

’It is Haydn without wig, it is great piano, with rhythms and accentuations marked that give a singular life to these works “

Thierry Vagne, France, October 2018

A sense of joy in music-making is the dominant feature of this highly enjoyable CD of Haydn sonatas from French composer-pianist Denis Levaillant. Levaillant’s keyboard style is clear, precise but not too pointed, rhythmically controlled, and direct in expression. One secret to the charm of these readings is that Levaillant is a composer, and there’s something special when composers turn performer. I’d call Benjamin Britten the best Lieder accompanist I know, and on the podium the greatest conductors tended to think of themselves as composers first (Bernstein leaps to mind, but one can’t exclude Furtwängler and perhaps not Klemperer and Walter).

Huntley Dent, Fanfare Magazine, janvier 2019

‘Pianist/composer Levaillant, while generally faithful to the score, brings something of a modern sensibility to his Haydn, starting with the use of a present day piano. His tone and phrasing are robust, without trying to mimic the sound of an older keyboard instrument. So not just another Haydn piano recording here; this is highly refreshing and full of delight.’

Peter Burwasser, Fanfare Magazine, January 2019

‘Levaillant treats the music with ultimate respect; more, he finds the delightful aspects, as well as the surprising ones, and treats them both with a certain sense of joy. There is a real communicative element to these performances. The Sonata No. 58 takes us into favorites territory. Brendel delighted in this one and without displacing the master, Levaillant finds just as much depth and variety. The present finale glints and sparkled thanks to Levaillant’s well-judged staccato. The well-known Eb, Hob XVI:49 has a huge discography, from Byron Janis to Brautigam, Hamelin to Serkin. Yet in the context of this recital, and Levaillant’s consistent interpretations, this seems the ideal performance. Levaillant’s jewel-lit scales are particular highpoints. A lovely disc, well worth investigation.

Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine, January 2019

Musiques pour le piano

‘Here we again find Levaillant’s taste for sound atmospheres, as well as his profound touch and highly refined playing […]’

Michel Thion, Le Monde de la Musique, May 1993.

Solo piano solo

‘First of all, the evidence: Denis Levaillant is a creator. With a good old piano, he draws out things that are personal to him while firmly fixing them within a story, within a continuity, with an art of possession, unheard-of sensuality and an extraordinary pianistic gesture. Denis Levaillant caresses the piano, curling up in its sonorities, in superb undulations or gentle aggressions. Possession of the music. Self-possession and possession of others. The possession of creation. The art of possession.’

Christian Goubault, Paris Normandie, 22 January 1989. 

Le Dernier pèlerinage

‘Denis Levaillant’s approach is one of tense sobriety, demonstrating rare piano mastery. His greatest merit is to make us look straight at the space of a journey, the extraordinary light arising from the nothingness that, more than anyone else, Liszt fought.’

Patrick Szersnovicz, Le Monde de la musique,1986.

Barium Circus

‘This record especially reveals the strength of Levaillant’s playing. He is a well-rounded decidedly modern pianist with a flair for cleanly articulated two-handed invention.’

Milo Fine, Cadence, December 1985.

‘The pianist, one of the most interesting younger French composers, emerges as a solo player of considerable ability, always understated and economical, never less than acute in his judgment of the effective moment and phrase.’

Brian Morton, Wire, September 1985.


‘A superb disc. Levaillant, who really plays the piano, plays Debussy, Monk, Bley, Cecil Taylor, Jarrett, Samson François, Glenn Gould et al. And this is music that thinks. What’s more, it’s beautiful…'

Michel Thion, Révolution, December 1984.

‘Levaillant manages to unveil the essence of things. He neither parodies nor paraphrases. […] His strength is to maintain a distance from the subject. Thus, playing Duke Ellington with a touch à la Maurizio Pollini does not fail to surprise.”

Alex Duthil, Le Monde de la Musique, December 1984.

La Chevauchée

‘Thanks to technique that is remarkably adapted to performing Franz Liszt, Denis Levaillant ‘transposed’, through the accompaniment of songs or in improvisations, the diverse landscapes that we were discovering. These improvisations, veritable results of the composer’s harmonic daring, were perfectly in keeping with the authentic pieces.’

Pierre Reynaud, Le Courrier Picard, 17 May 1982.

‘To receive Denis Levaillant’s piano commentary headlong—sometimes between two phrases, sometimes in a few verses, sometimes developed, sometimes reduced to a few notes—, you might think you had been transported back to the 19th century, in the chiaroscuro of a friendly drawing room, with the composer improvising at the piano. […] This evocation so masterfully eludes pretension and attests to such obvious involvement of performers in the morbid, impassioned Romantic universe, which they are attempting to bring back to life, that the show and intellectual intention disappear behind the newfound spirit.’

Gérard Condé, Le Monde, 17 February 1981.

Portrait de l’Artiste

‘In this kind of mad, audacious recital, Denis Levaillant added to a dumbfounding mastery of the piano a number of truly creative ideas as to the role that a so-called ‘accompaniment pianist’ can take.’ 

Eric Vogel, La Tribune de Genève,18 January 1981.


‘Levaillant’s piano, turned every which way, serves as a bridge, trampoline and staircase. We see music move, most often at top speed, in an extravagant décor.’

Louis Dandrel, Le Monde de la Musique, September 1978.

‘Levaillant plays the piano like Levaillant and no one else.’

Philippe Conrath, Libération, January 1979.


The Writer

Eloge du musical, DLM éditions, Paris 2012

'Based on a vast musical and philosophical culture, this dense, demanding essay has the great merit of exposing the fundamental challenges of current art music.'

Jacques Bonnaure, La lettre du musicien.

Le Piano, livre+DVD, DLM éditions, Paris 1986, 2010.

'Thank you for having sent me this handsome, intelligent and attractive book. How can someone say so many things so well in so few pages? One senses, in your book, the research and quality of the documentation, and of the thinking. It is a very fine, solid piece of work.'

Roland de Candé, 23 November 1986.

'The Piano - nothing more, nothing less! Undeniably ambitious, the project of pianist-composer Denis Levaillant might even seem presumptuous, for he settles the question in less than 150 pages. But the challenge is met, in a style that is always clear and accessible, in five chapters proceeding by summary sheets enriched with numerous musical examples, diagrams and photos.'

Omer Corlaix,

L’Improvisation musicale, Lattès 1980, Actes-Sud 1996

'This is a very rich book: the way in which the interviews and your own analyses are inserted, your process in touches, your tone, which is at once quite clear, sober and rigorous, make this a book in which I learn enormously, and which, I tell myself, I really needed. My very best regards.'

Gilles Deleuze, 5 May 1981.

‘I received with gratitude your recordings and your book on musical improvisation. What an immense lesson in humility: your extraordinary competence and sharpness in this subject both gratify me and persuade me that I know nothing about music, although it has filled my life! A thousand congratulations and best regards.'

Michel Serres, September 2003.

Interdit d’Antenne

'In a vast, strong paper, Denis Levaillant sketches a theory of music and the media, which, to our knowledge, is unique. Doubtless the essential text of the collection.'

Fabien Roland Levy, Libération, 1978.

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