Jean-Christophe Rosaz, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

Probably my parents who used to listen to music: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven – could we imagine better teachers? Many years after, playing the guitar, the desire to imagine, create something new that didn’t exist a few minutes before… and now I’m in! Whatever I do, it’s not long before I start thinking of a new project.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

Great (for me) composers, but also meeting with musicians, not only in respect of music but also the human dimension.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

No frustrations, except that we would like to be played more (for example, the fact that sacred music is rather rare in France). The greatest challenges are to compose for the orchestra, a long-term work like writing an opera.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

Each one is a new adventure based on the commission – be it professional, amateurs, children… If there is a text, the pleasure to invite music born from words; also to compose for someone who is unique.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

Whether it’s finding musicians or making friends, above all I’m always amazed at how much they understand my universe without my need to explain it a lot.

Of which works are you most proud?

I’m not sure “proud” is the word but my Indian songs, for example, give me joy.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Difficult question: a path somewhere between tonality and atonality, modality classicism and modernity

How do you work?

Generally from broad to particular, from the whole to the detail, from a nebula which clears up until the first note, rhythm, or harmony appear.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

The list may be long! Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bartok, Ravel, Stravinsky, Ligeti, Penderecki… and and so many others

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

It does not belong to me; of course we need recognition to live and continue to give the best of ourself

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Love, hope, fraternity, more precisely the question of the shape (like in a movie, the scenario)

What is your present state of mind?


A guitarist by training, Jean-Christophe Rosaz studied at the Lyons Conservatory, notably with Gilbert Amy, Raffi Ourgandjian and Robert Pascal, before finishing with a course in film music composition at the École Normale in Paris.

His works have been premiered notably in France, Belgium and Portugal. Also a singer, familiar with various languages and dialects, he has written many works for the voice: chamber opera (Cléopâtre, 1993), opera for children’s voices (Jean de la Lune, 2009), a musical tale (A l’ombre du baobab, 2013), pieces for a cappella chorus (Running to Paradise, 2006) or with instrumental accompaniment (Sonneto, 2008), sacred music (Passion selon Saint Matthieu, 2010). Open to music in all its diversity, in particular to traditional forms of music, he has also composed pieces for chamber groupings and draws inspiration from nature (Sous le tambour du soleil, 1991; Windway, 2007; Le Bestiaire fantastique, 2009; Into the sky, 2012).

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