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Guézec, Jean-Pierrelocked

  • Betsy Jolas

(b Dijon, Aug 29, 1934; d Paris, March 9, 1971). French composer. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire (1953–63) with Rivier, Milhaud and, most importantly, Messiaen, whose teaching affected him deeply. His first works aligned him firmly with the post-Webern avant garde; he soon attracted attention for his extremely refined style, his subtle handling of timbre, the originality of his formal conceptions and primarily for what he described as ‘a certain feverish atmosphere which reflects the agitation and unrest of the world in which we live’. These qualities remained in evidence throughout his brief career. While following with interest the explorations of his contemporaries in the areas of indeterminacy and music theatre, he did not share these concerns, declaring himself opposed to any use of theatrical devices in concerts and favouring an ‘aesthetic of precision’ in form and notation.

Guézec sought to transfer to music certain ideas drawn from 20th-century painting. Characteristic of this approach is the Suite pour Mondrian (1963), one of his first orchestral works, in which combinations of surfaces (such as are found in that painter’s work) are projected in time and coloured by clearly differentiated musical material. Similar concerns reappear throughout his oeuvre, many pieces having titles suggestive of visual art. Architectures colorées, which was first performed at the 1964 Warsaw Festival, consists of seven connected sections, each formed from strongly characterized zones: zones of isolated notes, of glissando lines, of harmonics or small semitone or quarter-tone clusters. Textures enchaînées, whose scoring for wind and percussion was dictated by the needs of open-air performance, consists of 15 sections, each characterized by a particular texture. The textures are defined by the way in which elements are combined vertically and horizontally, and by the way in which they are selected from particular categories (homogeneous, heterogeneous, dynamic, static etc.). A similar structural procedure was applied to the voice in Reliefs polychromés and Couleurs juxtaposées II. In these pieces Guézec used no text, but produced a rich variety of vocal colours by his choice of phonemes, achieving effects comparable to those of his instrumental works. He won the Berkshire Music Center Composition Prize in 1963, and the Grand Prix de la Promotion Symphonique was awarded to him by the SACEM in 1968. From 1969 until his death he was professor of analysis at the Paris Conservatoire.


(selective list)


Suite pour Mondrian, orch, 1963

Architectures colorées, 15 insts, 1964

Ensemble multicolore, 18 insts, 1965

Yvonne, Princesse de Bourgogne (incid music, W. Gombrowicz), 1965

Forme, orch, 1966

Saül (incid music, A. Gide), 1966

Assemblages, 28 insts, 1967

Textures enchaînées, 16 insts, 1967

Successif-simultané, 12 str, 1968

Trio, vn, va, vc, 1968

Couleurs juxtaposées I, 2 perc, 1969

Forme-Couleurs, 2 hps, 10 insts, 1969

Much Ado about Nothing (incid music, W. Shakespeare), 1969

Onze pour cinq, 5 perc, 1970


3 poèmes (H. Michaux), 1v, pf, 1961

5 pièces, chorus, orch, 1964

Reliefs polychromés, 12-pt chorus, 1969

Couleurs juxtaposées II, S, T, 1971

30 mesures pour Colette Herzog, S, pf, 1971

Principal publisher: Salabert


  • M.-J. Chauvin: ‘Jean-Pierre Guézec’, Courrier musical de France, no.23 (1968), 164–87
  • M. Cadieu: ‘Entretien avec Jean-Pierre Guézec’, Lettres françaises (19 Feb 1969); repr. in A l’écoute des compositeurs: entretiens 1961–1974 (Paris, 1992), 187–92
  • O. Messiaen and others: ‘Pour le souvenir de Jean-Pierre Guézec’, Courrier musical de France, no.34 (1971), 55–7