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Biography

Yves Balmer, a Franco-Swiss composer and lecturer born in 1978, seamlessly integrates musical creation with musicological research. He has pursued studies in piano, organ, and saxophone, as well as music analysis, composition, orchestration, and music history. A recipient of six prizes from the Conservatoire de Paris (CNSMDP), he holds a doctoral degree focusing on the creative processes of Olivier Messiaen. Balmer has held the chair of musicology at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and has authored six books. Transitioning from his illustrious academic career, he embraced the challenges of musical composition, and has been fully engaged in creative endeavours since 2019.

As a composer, Balmer received the Kaija Saariaho International Composition Prize in 2023 for Winds Choreography, composed for the organ of the Helsinki Music Center (premiered at the Musica Nova Helsinki Festival in 2025). His debut CD Poétiques de l’instant: Debussy / Balmer has garnered international acclaim, receiving awards such as the Diapason d’Or, Opera Magazine’s Diamant, five stars from Classica, and four stars from The Guardian. His transcription of Debussy’s Proses Lyriques and his quartet Fragments soulevés par le vent, performed by Jodie Devos and the Voce Quartet, have been featured in tours across Europe, Asia and South America.

Balmer’s art draws inspiration from contemporary arts, weaving profound connections with the paintings of Fabienne Verdier and the poetry of André du Bouchet or Philippe Jaccottet in works like Dans la chaleur vacante for soprano and piano, or Vortex for percussion. His fascination with sound, its fragility, and its transient states leads him to explore the possibility of sculpting resonance, often combining it with a calligraphic musical gesture as in his Piano Material cycle or instrumental solos for saxophone (Saxophone Sonata), bassoon (Dark Energy), and cello (Faire surgir la lumière).

Currently serving as a professor of analysis at CNSMDP, Balmer is also the editor-in-chief of the complete edition of Olivier Messiaen’s unpublished works (Durand-Universal) and the president of the French Society of Musicology (starting july 2024).

Yves Balmer

Composer & Musicologist

 

 

Address: Knesebeckstr. 18

D-10623 Berlin (Germany)

[From Sept. 1st 2024 :

25 avenue Foch

F-94300 Vincennes (France)]

 

Mobile: +33 601760302

Email: yves.balmer78@gmail.com  

Nationality: French and Swiss

Date of birth: 06/06/1978

 

Website: https://www.yvesbalmer.com/

Personal academic page: https://www.iremus.cnrs.fr/fr/membres-permanents/yves-balmer

 

AWARDS

2023                Kaija Saariaho International Composition Prize (International Kaija Saariaho Organ Composition Competition 2023) for the piece Winds Choreography (18 min.). Jury: Kaija Saariaho (president), Francesco Filidei, Suzanna Mälkki, Nicholas Collon, Olli Porthan, Maija Hynninen, Olli Kortekangas, Suzanne Kujala, Jan Lehtola.

2018                Japan Society for Promotion of Science Fellowship, Tokyo University of the Arts

 

SELECTED RECENT WORKS

  • 2023 : Stiacciato, for chamber orchestra [ca. 17’]

  • 2023: Saxophone Sonata, 8 movements, for alto saxophone solo [ca. 30’], Paris: Billaudot, 2024

  • 2022: Winds Choreography [ca. 18’], for solo organ

  • 2020-2021: Fragments soulevés par le vent, for string quartet [ca. 12’], Paris: Billaudot, 2022

  • 2021: Cahier de metamorphoses, for solo piano [ca. 20’], Paris: Billaudot, 2022

  • 2018-2020: Piano Material, four pieces for solo piano [ca. 18’], Paris: Billaudot éditions, 2022

 

ACADEMIC POSITIONS

2008-               Professor of music analysis, Paris Conservatoire (CNSMDP)

2004-2018        Maître de conférences [Assistant Professor], École normale supérieure, Lyon

 

RECORDING

Poétiques de l’instant: Debussy & Balmer. CD Alpha n° 708. 2022. Recording of Fragments soulevés par le vent, string quartet, and my arrangement of Debussy’s Proses lyriques for soprano and string quartet. Voce Quartet. Jodie Devos. Emmanuel Ceysson. Juliette Hurel. Selected awards: Diapason d’or; Diamant (Opéra Magazine); 5 stars (Classica); 4 stars (The Guardian).

 

EDUCATION

2008                 PhD, Musicology, University of Lille, France

2005                MA, Musicology, Paris Conservatoire, France

2005                MA, Composition [écriture musicale], Paris Conservatoire, France

2000                Musical performance gold medals, piano and chamber music, Lille Conservatoire, France

 

SELECTED ACADEMIC SERVICE

2024-               President: French Musicological Society

2017-               Member: Executive Board of the Messiaen Foundation

2013-2019        Editor-in-chief: Revue de musicologie

2010-2012        Head and deputy-head of Arts Department, ENS de Lyon

 

SELECTED CONFERENCE ORGANISATION

Co-organiser, with L. Kayas: International conf. André Jolivet, Paris, 14-15 March 2024

Co-organiser, with P. Asimov: International conf. “History serving creation”, Paris, 2-3 Dec. 2021

Co-organiser, with P. Bloom: Workshop on Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, Paris, 21 Mars 2017

Co-organiser, with E. Reibel: Workshop on composer Michèle Reverdy, Paris, 6 March 2014

Organiser: International conf. “New perspectives for musicological research”, Lyon, 16-18 Sept. 2012

 

SELECTED INVITED TEACHER OR LECTURER ENGAGEMENTS

  • 03/2023: Master-class in composition, Lille Conservatoire, FR

  • 11/2018: Keynote address: Annual meeting of the Japanese musicological society, JP

  • 10/2016: The Chinese University of Hong-Kong, Music Department, Pr. Cheong Wai-Ling, HK

  • 4/2016: Harvard University, Music Department, Pr. Shreffler’s graduate seminar ; R. Beaudouin’s Music theory undergraduate class, US

  • 10/2016: Institut de France, Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris, FR

  • 04/2013: National University of Music, Bucharest, 3 lectures on French contemporary music (graduate and undergraduate seminars, Pr. Valentina Sensu-Dediu), RO

  • 05/2012: Académie de Belgique, Classe des arts, Bruxelles, BE

 

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

  • Musiques. Images. Instruments. Mélanges Florence Gétreau, Turnhout : Brepols, 2019, 645 p.

(with Massip, Guilloux, Framboisier)

  • Un siècle de musicologie en France vol. 2, 2018, 804 p. (with H. Lacombe)

  • Le modèle et l’invention: Olivier Messiaen et la technique de l’emprunt. Lyon: Symétrie, 2017, 624 p.

(with Lacôte and Murray ; prefaced by George Benjamin)

  • Un siècle de musicologie en France, vol. 1, 2017, 624 p. (with H. Lacombe)

  • “Messiaen the Borrower: Recomposing Debussy Trought the Deforming Prism,” Journal of the American Musicological Society 69/3 (2016): 699-791(with Lacôte and Murray)

  • “Un cri de passion ne s’analyse pas : Olivier Messiaen’s Borrowings from J. Massenet,” Twentieth-century Music 13/2 (2016): 233-260 (with Lacôte and Murray)

  • polyphoniques: Hommage à M. Levinas. Paris: CREC, 2015, 190 p.(with Lacôte and Vançon)

  • Michèle Reverdy: compositrice intranquille. Paris: Vrin, 2014, 244 p. (with E. Reibel)

  • “Pierre Boulez’s Experience and Olivier Messiaen’s Harmony Class,” Musicalia 7 (2014): 31-60

(with Murray)

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