André Jolivet’s String Music

Presenter: Caroline Rae


André Jolivet (1905-1974) was among the most significant French composers of the twentieth century. A pupil of Varèse and colleague of Messiaen in La Jeune France, Jolivet forged an innovative new musical language during the 1930s that influenced both Messiaen and Boulez.

After a period of stylistic re-orientation during World War Two, Jolivet reasserted his compositional raison d’être in 1946 as restoring ‘music’s ancient original meaning when it was the magic and incantatory expression of the sacred in human communities’, a humanist approach that infused most of his subsequent music. While Jolivet is best known for his orchestral works and chamber music for piano and for flute, he also authored a significant body of music for strings from the 1930s to his final years.

While his early violin works were written for the violinist Martine Barbillon, the composer’s first wife, it was his String Trio and String Quartet – comprising an expressive atonalism akin to Berg – that first attracted the admiration of Messiaen. Jolivet’s works for cello include solo pieces as well as two Concertos of the 1960s commissioned by André Navarra and Mstislav Rostropovich, respectively. Jolivet’s Violin Concerto, one of his last completed works, was intended for Leonid Kogan.

Additionally, Jolivet composed a series of unaccompanied experimental works as well as works for string orchestra, these representing some of his most personal musical statements. This paper contextualises these undeservedly neglected works to highlight their importance within the twentieth-century string repertoire and, hopefully, encourage future performances.


Caroline Rae is a Reader in Music at Cardiff University and a pianist. She has published extensively on twentieth-century French music and was contributing editor of André Jolivet: Music, Art and Literature (2019), the first book on the composer in English.

She is currently preparing a monograph, The Music of André Jolivet, for Boydell in addition to her work as contributing co-editor for Stravinsky and France: Reception, Interactions and Legacy (URP, forthcoming 2023) and Debussy d’hier à aujourd’hui (SFM, forthcoming 2023).

She broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio 3, was Series Advisor to the Philharmonia Orchestra for the City of Light: Paris 1900-1950 festival and has also been a programming consultant to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

As a pianist, she was a pupil of Dame Fanny Waterman from childhood, later studying with Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen in Paris. She was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her services to French music in 2018.

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