Death of Claude Samuel, tireless defender of contemporary music

The journalist Claude Samuel died in a Paris hospital on Sunday 14 June at the age of 88, a man close to Pierre Boulez who, through his many writings and his work in the field in favour of contemporary music, was able to establish himself as a key contact with local and national political decision-makers.From Karlheinz Stockhausen to Iannis Xenakis, from Olivier Messiaen to Bruno Maderna, Claude Samuel has worked with and accompanied the creators of the second half of the 20th century, with a predilection for the avant-garde.

Claude Samuel was born in Paris on June 23, 1931, and was pushed by his parents to become a dental surgeon (a profession he would only practise briefly), but in 1952 he gave up his medical studies to attend the concerts of the Domaine musical, a Boulézian institution, which marked, in his own words, his “entry into music-loving music”.

An anecdote sensor

Sponsored by the composer and conductor Maurice Le Roux, Claude Samuel collaborated from 1957 on the Philips-Réalités collection , for which he wrote discographic notices, and the following year undertook an ambitious Panorama of Contemporary Music which was published in 1962 by Gallimard.The composers Karlheinz Stockhausen (Cologne), Karl-Amadeus Hartmann (Vienna), Luigi Nono (Venice) and Bruno Maderna (Milan) were the main beacons of this first journey.

A workaholic, Claude Samuel continued to write his book by working as a journalist – successively at L’Express and France-Observateur (1959-1960) then simultaneously at Paris-Presse and Le Nouveau Candide (from 1961) – and as a record producer for the Véga label, with, among other things, the first recording of Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie, under the direction of Maurice Le Roux.After a brief stay in the United States in the winter of 1963-1964, where he met Edgar Varèse, Claude Samuel was invited to give a lecture during a week devoted to contemporary music in Royan (Charente-Maritime). This trip marked a turning point in his career. At his initiative, the following year the event was transformed into a festival based on the model of Donaueschingen (Baden-Württemberg) which, since 1921, has attracted the contemporary music elite. A first in France.

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