Olivier Greif

1950 - 2000



French composer Olivier Greif was born on January 3rd 1950 to Polish-Jewish parentage. Greif’s father was a survivor of Auschwitz, which inspired Greif to write a number of works about the Holocaust, notably Todesfuge, which is based on a poem by Paul Celan, and Lettres de Westerbork, which is a song cycle using letters written by Etty Hillesum. His first compositional activity came at the age of 9 and led to his studying at the Paris Conservatory before going to the Juilliard School. His solo piano pieces and songs for voice are his best-known works. When he died on May 13th 2000, he had completed 100 works and had several still I progress. 

His music shows clear influence from the late twentieth century tonal styles of Benjamin Britten and Dmitri Shostakovich with a clear element of folk music and some similarity with Franz Liszt. The sound often toys with very dark colours, sometimes in very unexpected contexts. Many of his works have only been played once and, somewhat unusually, his 23 sonatas for piano have not been recorded in their entirety as a cycle.