Olivier Greif (1950-2000)

Olivier Greif was born in Paris on January 3th, 1950 and early showed strong musical disposition. He was first taught by Lucette Descaves and Yvonne Desportes, before entering the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique of Paris at the age of 10. There he studied solfeggio with Marcel Bitsch, the piano with Lucette Descaves, sight-reading with Geneviève Joy, chamber-music with Jean Hubeau, composition with Tony Aubin (Prize in 1967), conducting with Robert Blot and orchestration with Marius Constant.

In 1969 he went to New York to study with Luciano Berio, then a teacher at the Juilliard School. The following year, he was his assistant for the world-premiere of his work Opera at the Opera of Santa Fe, New-Mexico.

As a composer and a pianist, he performed throughout Europe, the USA and Japan. In the 70’s, Olivier Greif taught writing, analysis and chamber music at the Academy-Festival of Les Arcs before taking on its artistic direction from 1983 to 1986. In 1978 and 1979, he also taught in Annecy during the Festival of the Pâques musicales. The Opéra de Paris commissioned him a chamber opera, , first performed in 1981 at the Centre Georges Pompidou, in co-production with the Ircam and the Paris Autumn Festival.

In 1976, he started a spiritual search that would last for more than twenty years. This lead to a pause in his music creation for some ten years, but for a number of polyphonic arrangements of traditional religious Indian chants.

In 1990, he resumed his career as a pianist and composer, more and more intensely until his sudden death on May 13th, 2000 in Paris.

This was the period of some important commissions by Radio-France and several festivals such as Kuhmo, Varsovie, Berlin, Deauville, Cordes-sur-Ciel, La Prée, and numerous performances as a pianist. A deep and brilliant spirit, Olivier Greif was also a very sought-after guest of conferences and radio-talks.

Olivier Greif wrote more than a hundred works, all listed in his catalogue from 1961 (he was then 11). He composed especially works for piano solo (a.o. Sonate dans le goût ancien, Sonate de guerre and Portraits et Apparitions), for voice and piano (a.o. Petite Cantate de chambre, the vast cycle of Chants de l’âme and the Chansons apocryphes). He also wrote sonatas for violin and piano, pieces for cello and piano (in particular the Sonate de requiem), a Sonata for two cellos “The Battle of Agincourt”, a Trio for piano, four string quartetts (a.o. two with voice), a Quintett with piano “A tale of the world”, a Sextuor “Ich ruf zu Dir”, a Symphonie for baritone, a Cello concerto “Durch Adams Fall”, a Quadruple Concerto “La Danse des morts”. Among the pieces for voice and instrumental ensembles are Le Livre du pèlerin, the chamber opera , Les Hymnes spéculatifs, L’Office des naufragés, and finally a Requiem for double-choir a cappella.

His work shows many original ideas and recollections either religious (Hebraïc or gregorian cantillation, lutherian chorals, anglican anthems) or secular (songs from all countries and all times), set up in a polyphonic interlacing.

Some of his works have been published while he was still alive by Leduc, Heugel, Durand, Eschig or Salabert. A larger opus was published by the éditions Hapax in 2000-2001. Since the end of 2004, and thanks to the support of the Fonds d’action Sacem, Symétrie (Lyons) is giving a new publishing impulse.

Olivier Greif Association
(translation Philippe Do)

More informations on the composer’s web site :


(couverture de Sonate pour piano no 21)

Sonate pour piano no 21

« Codex Domini »

(édition scientifique)
(couverture de Le Rêve du monde)

Le Rêve du monde

sonate pour piano

Jonathan Bénichou (édition scientifique)
(couverture de Le Tombeau de Ravel)

Le Tombeau de Ravel

(couverture de Le Tombeau de Ravel)

Le Tombeau de Ravel

(couverture de Petite Cantate de chambre)

Petite Cantate de chambre

based on the text of the 23rd Psalm « The Lord is my shepherd »

Henri Barda (édition scientifique)
(couverture de Sonate pour deux violoncelles)

Sonate pour deux violoncelles

« The Battle of Agincourt »

Nicolas Bacri (édition scientifique)
(couverture de Bomben auf Engelland)

Bomben auf Engelland

air de concert

Jacques Castérède (édition scientifique)
(couverture de Wiener Konzert)

Wiener Konzert

cycle de cinq lieder sur des poèmes d’Heinrich Heine

Charles Bouisset (édition scientifique)
(couverture de Le Tombeau de Ravel)

Le Tombeau de Ravel

pour piano à quatre mains

(édition scientifique)
(couverture de L’Office des naufragés)

L’Office des naufragés

Alexandre Gasparov (édition scientifique)

Format bibliographique à copier

Greif, Olivier, Thouvenin, Anne-Élise (édition scientifique). Sonate pour piano no 21, « Codex Domini », Symétrie, 2024, 56 p.
Greif, Olivier, Bénichou, Jonathan (édition scientifique). Le Rêve du monde, sonate pour piano, préface de Brigitte François-Sappey, Symétrie, 2009, 40 p.
Greif, Olivier. Le Tombeau de Ravel, orchestration de Fabien Waksman, Symétrie, 2009, 55 p.
Greif, Olivier. Le Tombeau de Ravel, orchestration de Fabien Waksman, Symétrie, 2009, 262 p.
Greif, Olivier, Barda, Henri (édition scientifique). Petite Cantate de chambre, based on the text of the 23rd Psalm « The Lord is my shepherd », Symétrie, 2007, 100 p.
Greif, Olivier, Bacri, Nicolas (édition scientifique). Sonate pour deux violoncelles, « The Battle of Agincourt », Symétrie, 2006, 95 p.
Greif, Olivier, Castérède, Jacques (édition scientifique). Bomben auf Engelland, air de concert, préface de Brigitte François-Sappey, Symétrie, 2006, 32 p.
Greif, Olivier, Bouisset, Charles (édition scientifique). Wiener Konzert, cycle de cinq lieder sur des poèmes d’Heinrich Heine, préface de Brigitte François-Sappey, Symétrie, 2006, 22 p.
Greif, Olivier, François-Sappey, Brigitte (édition scientifique). Le Tombeau de Ravel, pour piano à quatre mains, Symétrie, 2005, 104 p.
Greif, Olivier, Gasparov, Alexandre (édition scientifique). L’Office des naufragés, préface de Brigitte François-Sappey, Symétrie, 2005.