Paul Méfano

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picture of Paul Méfano
Paul Méfano, nov. 2009

Paul Méfano (March 6, 1937 – September 15, 2020), was a French composer and conductor.


Paul Méfano was born in Basra, Iraq. He pursued musical studies at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, and then later at the Paris Conservatory (CNSMP), where he was a student of Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Georges Dandelot. He completed his studies in Basel at the courses taught by Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Henri Pousseur.

He regularly attended the concerts of the Domaine Musical, as well as the seminars at Darmstadt, and enrolled in Olivier Messiaen’s class at the CNSMP. Messiaen described Méfano as "restless, intense, and always in search of radical solutions".[1]

In 1965 his music was performed publicly for the first time, at the Domaine Musical under the baton of Bruno Maderna. From 1966 to 1968 he lived in the United States, and then in 1969 he moved to Berlin at the invitation of the German Academy of Cultural Exchange (DAAD).

In 1970 he returned to France, signed a contract with Salabert, and devoted himself to composition, to conducting, and to musical life in general. In 1972 he founded the Ensemble 2e2m, a group which he regularly conducted, and with which he has premièred more than five hundred works by young composers and with which he has made more than forty recordings. Amongst those younger composers are Stéphane de Gérando, Laurent Mettraux, Thierry Blondeau, Marc André, Michael Finnissy, James Dillon, Bruce Mather, and Claude Lefèvre, but he has also championed older composers such as Jean Barraqué, Brian Ferneyhough, Franco Donatoni, Luigi Nono, Aldo Clementi, Philippe Boesmans, Morton Feldman, Edison Denisov, and John Cage, as well as participating in the rediscovery of Charles Valentin Alkan and the Czech composers who were interred at Terezienstadt in 1940. He is the founder of the Editions du Mordant for the publication of contemporary music, and of the Editions Musicales Européennes (dedicated primarily to young composers), and he has produced a number of notable radio series.[2]

In 1972 he was appointed director of the Conservatory of Champigny-sur-Marne, a duty which he performed until 1988. He also was professor of composition and orchestration at the Paris Conservatory until 2002. One of his conducting students was the Canadian composer Claude Vivier.

From 1996 until 2005 he directed the Conservatory of Versailles.

The most important works of Paul Méfano are published and accessible at Babelscores.

In 2007, Paul Méfano became the director of the CLSI ensemble (Circle for the Liberation of Sounds & Images) with various musicians and composers like Gerard Pape, Jacqueline Méfano, Olga Krashenko, Lissa Meridan, Michael Kinney, Martin Phelps, Rodolphe Bourotte, Stefan Tiedje, Jean-Baptiste Favory.

Musical style[edit]

Méfano’s compositional style has evolved considerably from his early serial work Incidences (1960) down to recent compositions which make extensive use of microtones, such as Speed (2000). His early serial style is clearly under the influence of Boulez, but the ardour of his employment of these traits “confounds the crystalline, the mirror-like and with it all suggestion of musical geometry”.[1] He has an essentially poetic conception of music, reflected in a lifelong interest in poets and poetry.[3] This is manifested especially in his treatment of instrumental color and in his vocal writing. He also has a special feeling for drama, as manifested in La cérémonie. At the beginning of the 1970s he experimented with electronics (La messe des voleurs), and with its real-time combination with instruments. Though he has shown interest in the music of the spectralist composers, his own compositions are not at all similar, and today he is regarded as a "post-spectralist" composer.[4] Many of his works explore and develop contemporary techniques for the flute, such as in Captive, Eventails, Gradiva, Traits suspendus, or Ensevelie. His earliest works (Trois chants crépusculaires) maintain links with tonality, to which he returned in Micromégas. Since this work he has remained faithful to serial technique.[2]


He has been awarded the following prizes and honors:

  • 1971 – Prix Enesco de SACEM.
  • 1980 – Chevalier de l'Ordre du Mérite.
  • 1982 – Grand prix national de la Musique.
  • 1985 – Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres.
  • 1989 – Prix SACEM de la musique symphonique.

Catalog of works[edit]

Catalog of Works by Paul Méfano
Year Title Type of work Duration
1956 Evocations à l'usage des jeunes filles, for piano solo (piano) 03:00
1957 Croquis pour un adolescent. 6 pieces for piano solo (piano) 00:15
1958 Involutive, for clarinet solo (clarinet) 06:00
1958 Trois Chants crépusculaires (Text by Paul Méfano) [I. Rivages: jamais entamés par le jeu - II. Toi, qui rêveur observe les flammes - III. Perçois-tu, humain le futur], for dramatic soprano and piano vocal (with piano) 15:00
1959 Estampes japonaises, for soprano and 10 instruments [I. Sur les vagues (Hitomaro, 681-729) - II. La Vague (Ninamato No Sanetamo) - III. Pluie (anonymous, 8th century) - IV. Dans la bise glacée (Ki No Tsurayuki, 883–946) - V. Dans un jardin (anonymous 12th century poet). There are 3 versions: a) light or coloratura soprano and ensemble - b) light or coloratura soprano and piano reduction - c) Transcription for flute (pic, bass fl) and piano vocal 10:00
1959 Danse bulgare n° 1, after Bartók version 1 (1959) - version 2 (1980): for string orchestra orchestral music 01:50
1959 Variations libres, after Bartók (version 1 (1959) - version 2 (1980) : for orchestre à cordes orchestra 01:40
1960 Incidences, for piano and orchestra orchestra -
1959 Orchestration of Die jagd, excerpt from Romances without Words by Mendelssohn (revision for orchestra) orchestra 05:00
1962 Captive (cadence extracted from Madrigal), for flute solo (flute) 05:00
1962 Lignes, noble bass and 15 instruments vocal (with instruments) 15:00
1962 Madrigal (Text after Paul Eluard), for 3 female voices or 2 female voices and countertenor, with small instrumental ensemble: fl, pno, hp, & 4perc vocal (with instruments) 18:00
1962 Que l’oiseau se déchire (poem by Yves Bonnefoy), for voice, clarinet in A and 1 percussionist vocal (with instruments)
1962 Mélodies, for soprano, mezzo-soprano or countertenor or contralto, and various instrumental ensembles [1. Nous avons erré longtemps (Omar Kayam), for voice and clarinet in A - 2. La Vague (Ninamato No Sanetamo), for voice and piano - 3. Que l’oiseau se déchire (Yves Bonnefoy), for voice, clarinet in A, and percussion - 4. Et l’unique cordeau (Guillaume Apollinaire), for voice, cl in A, trb, perc, pno, cb - 5. L’Infirmité du feu (Yves Bonnefoy), for voice and 10 instruments vocal (with instruments) 20:00
1964–65 Paraboles, soprano and ensemble (Version A (movements 1 to 3), for dramatic soprano and ensemble - Version B (movements 1 to 4, symphony orchestra) vocal & instrumental -
1966 Interférences, for piano and horn soli and 10 instruments vocal (with instruments) 12:00
1970 La Cérémonie, oratorio (text by the composer), for soprano, countertenor, baritone, speaking choir and 3 orchestral groups oratorio 25:00
1970 Old Œdip, "plaisanterie sonore" for reciter, actor, tape, electronics, and ring modulator vocal 13:30
1970 Intersections, electronic music electronic 10:10
1972 As you like it? Aleatoric piece for small variable ensemble instrumental 10-20:00
1972 L’Age de la vie (poem by Paul Eluard), for soprano, horn, and harp vocal (with instruments) 06:00
1972 La Messe des voleurs, for vocal quartet, chamber ensemble, electronics, and magnetic tape vocal (with instruments) 75:00
1972 Signes/oubli, for 22 instruments divided into 2 groupes vocal 07:00
1972 N, for one flutist playing piccolo, flute, alto flute, and bass flute, with electronics, modulator, and magnetic tape solo (flute) 23:00
1974 They (text: phonemes), for one singer vocal (a cappella) 03:00
1975 Ondes (espaces mouvants), for 10 instruments chamber music 08:00
1976 Placebo Domino in regione vivorum, motet for 6 mixed voices (S,MzS,A,T,Bar,B) on a text by the composer vocal 12:00
1976 Eventails, for amplified bass flute solo (flute) 10:00
1976 Mouvement calme, for string quartet or string ensemble (12 strings) chamber music 07:20
1978 Gradiva, for contrabass flute solo (flute) 24:00
1978 Périple, for saxophone and electronics solo (saxophone) 06-10:00
1979 Micromégas I, "action musicale" (after Voltaire) [rev. 1983–87 as Micromégas] opera
1980 Traits suspendus, contrabass flute or bass flute solo (flute) 06:00
1980 A Bruno Maderna, for solo cello, 11 strings, and magnetic tape chamber music 20:00
1983-87 Micromégas, "action lyrique" in 7 tableaux (after Voltaire) opera 80:00
1984 Scène 3, extract from the opera Micromégas (government commission, 1983) (Grand-théâtre, Metz) opera 15:00
1984 Douce saveur (poem by Nathalie Méfano), for bass, cor anglais, and tuba vocal (with instruments) 05:00
1986 Tige, for saxophone solo (saxophone) 04:00
1986 Ensevelie, for flute and synthesizer-controlled sampler solo (flute) 10:00
1989 Voyager, interlude for the opera Micromégas, for instrumental ensemble (17 instruments) chamber music 15:00
1990 Scintillante, for basson and electronics (MIDI-keyboard) chamber music 07:00
1990 Orchestration of Erwartung, orchestration by Paul Méfano and Michel Decoust, for soprano and 15 instruments orchestra 30:00
1991 Mémoire de la Porte Blanche, for piano solo (piano) 06:00
1992 Asahi, for oboe and electronics solo (oboe) 06:00
1992 Matrice des vents, for sho and electronics solo (sho) 35:00
1993 Dragonbass, for bass, 2 saxophones, synthesizer and tape vocal (with instruments) 15:00
1995-96 Mon ami Emile, une interprétation des Valses de Waldteufel [1er cahier: Amour et printemps - Les patineurs - Violettes], for flute, clarinet, piano, and string quartet chamber music 25:00
1995 Deux mélodies, for sop., mezzo-sop., sax., bass cl., viola vocal (with instruments) 08:00
1997 Trois chants 1958, for sop., 3 sax., 3 perc., and 3 cellos vocal (with instruments) 10:00
1998 Cinq pièces for 2 violins chamber music 12:00
1998 Mon ami Emile, une interprétation des Valses de Waldteufel [2nd collection: Roses et Marguerites - Valse de la poupée - Sirènes - Madeleine], for fl., cl., piano, harmonium, and string quartet chamber music 35:00
1998 Hélios, for alto flute and string trio chamber music 20:00
1999 Alone, for violon solo (violin) 12:00
2001 Tronoën, for cello alone solo (violoncello) 12:00
2003 Jades, for flute, clarinet, guitar and 2 cellos chamber music 10:00
(n.d.) Etrange/arrêtée/seule froissée, for 2 fl., vl., vlc., & perc. chamber music 09:00
(n.d.) ...s'égrainent comme le vent, for voice, 2 fl., vl., vlc., & perc. (text by Paul Méfano) vocal (with instruments) 09:00
(n.d.) Périple à 2, for 2 saxophones chamber music 05:00
(n.d.) Périple à 4 for 4 saxophones chamber music 06:00
(n.d.) Chanson pour les petits de 6 à 9 ans vocal 03:00
(n.d.) Batro, for violin and cello chamber music 08:00
(n.d.) Petit Batro for violin and cello chamber music 16:00


Work Interpretation Catalog number
Ondes (espaces mouvants) Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006
Placebo Domino in regione vivorum Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006
Mouvement calme Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006
A Bruno Maderna Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006
Ensevelie Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006
Voyager Paul MÉFANO vol. 1 (oeuvres 1974–1989) 2e2m collection 1006
Involutive Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007
Estampes japonaises Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007
Paraboles Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007
Interférences Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007
Lignes Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007
Signes/oubli Paul MÉFANO vol. 2 (oeuvres 1958–1972) 2e2m collection 1007
Scintillante Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012
Asahi Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012
Mémoire de la Porte Blanche Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012
Dragonbass Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012
La Matrice des Vents Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012
Périple à deux Paul MÉFANO vol. 3 (oeuvres 1978–1993) 2e2m collection 1012
Madrigal M. Mesplé et I. Jarsky (soprano), A. Bartelloni (mezzo), Ensemble 2e2m (Paul Méfano) (Prix Charles Cros) CBS 76783
Eventails J. Letroquer (bass flute) (Prix Charles Cros) CBS 76783
Ondes (Espaces mouvants) Ensemble 2e2m (Paul Méfano) (Prix Charles Cros) CBS 76783
Gradiva Pierre-Yves Artaud (flutes) Chant du Monde 480 LDX 78700
Traits suspendus Pierre-Yves Artaud (flutes) Chant du Monde 480 LDX 78700
They Vincent Munro CBS
Périple Daniel Kientzy (saxophones) K7 Salabert SC003
Périple Daniel Kientzy (saxophones) PAR5303
Captive Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute) STIL 0203 S84
Cinq estampes japonaises Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Jacqueline Méfano (piano) STIL 0203 S84
Eventails Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Zanesi (electronics) STIL 0203 S84
N Pierre-Yves Artaud (flute), Zanesi (electronics) STIL 0203 S84
Mélodies Dorothy Dorow (S), Ensemble 2e2m, Paul Méfano (dir) Chant du Monde 480 LDX 78686

This article draws on material from the Spanish and French Wikipedias


  • Hirsbrunner, Théo. 2001. "L'intelligibilité du texte poétique dans la composition musicale", in Littérature et musique dans la France contemporaine: actes du colloque des 20–22 mars 1999 en Sorbonne, edited by Jean-Louis Backès, Claude Coste, and Danièle Pistone, 101–107. Strasbourg: Presses Universitaires de Strasbourg, 2001. ISBN 2868201768.
  • Pugin, Tristram. 2000. "Through the Spectrum: The New Intimacy in French Music (I)". Tempo 212 (April: French Music Issue): 12–20.


  1. ^ a b Pugin 2000, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b Drake, Jeremy (2001). "Méfano, Paul". In Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan. ISBN 9780195170672.
  3. ^ Pugin 2000, p. 16.
  4. ^ Pugin, Tristram. 2001. "Through the Spectrum: The New Intimacy in French Music (II)". Tempo 217 (July): 38–44, 47. p. 38.

External links[edit]