Damase began composing at the age of nine. After Colette, his mother's friend, heard song settings of her poems, she wrote three "poèmes d'animaux" especially for him. When he was twelve, he became a pupil of Cortot at the École Normale de Musique de Paris, and in the next year he joined Armand Ferté’s piano classes at the Paris Conservatoire.
In 1943, he was unanimously awarded the Premier Prix in piano at the Conservatoire. Two years later he entered Busser's composition classes and began to study harmony and counterpoint with Dupré. At nineteen, he won the first prize in composition with his Quintet and his cantata Et la Belle se réveilla (And Beauty Awakened) won him the Prix de Rome. In the meantime, his career as a pianist was flourishing; he appeared as soloist in the Colonne and Conservatoire concerts and with the Orchestre National de la Radiodiffusion et Télévision Française (l'ORTF).
Damase's youthful compositional maturity helped to foster a considerable technical facility and he has produced a great deal of music in a style that is attractive and elegant, remaining close to the traditions of the Conservatoire. All his works show deep knowledge of the possibilities of instruments, and his orchestration is rich, full and varied; evidenced most notably in the chamber and concertante works.
Damase has a great admiration for Fauré and Ravel and has recorded some of their works. He is also great lover of ballet and a close friend of several leading choreographers. His first ballet score was La Croqueuse de diamants (The Diamond Cruncher) written for Roland Petit and first produced at the Marigny Theatre in Paris.
After touring the world as a piano soloist and winning the Grand Prix du Disque for his recordings, Jean-Michel Damase has devoted his activities to composition and teaching. Currently he is on the faculty at the École Normal de Musique de Paris, serves on the boards of numerous international musical organisations and societies and conducts master classes in Europe, the United States and Japan. He was awarded the Grand Prix Musical de la SACD (Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques) and the Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris.
* Edited/Corrected from "Jean-Michel Damase: Catalogue of works" published by Editions Henry LemoineAdditional material provided by Chez DAMASE