Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur

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Jean-Yves Daniel-Lesur (19 November 1908 – 2 July 2002) was a French organist and composer. His proper name was Jean-Yves-Daniel Lesur, but he was known often simply known as Daniel-Lesur. His mother, Alice Lesur, was an accomplished composer in her own right; some of her music was published.

He entered the Paris Conservatory at age 11, studying solfège with Emile Schwartz, harmony with Jean Gallon, and composition with Georges Caussade. He also took private lessons in piano with Armand Ferté and composition with Charles Tournemire.[1] From 1935 to 1964, he was professor of counterpoint at the Schola Cantorum under director Nestor Lejeune, becoming director himself in 1957.

In 1936, he co-founded the group La Jeune France along with composers Olivier Messiaen (with whom he would remain a lifelong friend), André Jolivet and Yves Baudrier, who were attempting to re-establish a more human and less abstract form of composition. La Jeune France developed from the avant-garde chamber music society La spirale, formed by Jolivet, Messiaen, and Daniel-Lesur the previous year.

That same year he, together with Jean Langlais and Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, gave the first performance of Olivier Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur.[2]

Between 1927 and 1937 he seconded Tournemire at the organ of Ste. Clotilde, Paris, and was organist of the Benedictine Abbey of Paris, 1937–44. Daniel-Lesur also served as director of the Opéra National de Paris from 1971 to 1973.

His opera Andrea del Sarto (1968) received the composition prize of the City of Paris in 1969. In 1973, he received the Prix Samuel Rousseau of the Académie des Beaux Arts. In 1982, he was elected member of the Institut de France.

Selected compositions[edit]

Le Cantique des cantiques[edit]

Daniel-Lesur's best-known composition is the a cappella choral work, Le Cantique des cantiques, a setting for 12 voices of parts of the Song of Songs, interspersed with Latin verses and New Testament texts. The seventh and final movement, titled "Épithalame", utilizes "the combination of richly harmonised upper voices singing the famous words from Chapter 8 of the Song of Songs in French ("Pose-moi comme un sceau sur ton coeur, comme un sceau sur ton bras. Car l'amour est fort comme la mort') over an ostinato set to Latin words ("Veni sponsa Christi") [which] has very great cumulative power, reaching a mighty twelve-part climax where all the voices sing a succession of Alleluias which initially emerge from the complex texture in a repeated motif coloured by the Lydian mode – an idea which seems to suggest the joyous pealing of bells." (From his obituary; see external links.) The Cantique des cantiques has been recorded by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, and is frequently performed internationally by such groups as Chanticleer and the Santa Fe Desert Chorale.


  1. ^ Tual, Francois-Gildas: "Daniel-Lesur, Jean-Yves", in: Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG), biographical part vol. 5 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2001), cc. 374–376.
  2. ^ Simeone, Nigel (Winter 2002). "In memoriam: Olivier Messiaen on Daniel-Lesur". Musical Times. Retrieved 2008-03-10. [dead link]

External links[edit]