"a composer with a powerful and authentic language." Henri Dutilleux.
"a progressive evolution of Jean-Claude Wolff's language seems obvious.
It reveals a mind attentive to the various aesthetic trends that marked
international musical life during the last 50 years, but a mind
that never gave into fashion or watchwords." Henri Dutilleux.
"a fertile imagination, a very personal musical language and a rare
demand and professional ethic."
"Velvety and floating sonorities have the most startling effect on
this composition, poles apart from contemporary music understood by
a small minority of 'trendies'."
Revue du son, Jan-Feb 2004.
"Amongst other things, Jean-Claude Wolff plays with the invaluable
privilege given to the harpsichord to compete with the percussion instruments."
International Association of harpists, spring-summer 2004.
Symphonie n° 2
"the most surprising work from "1979 Encounters" is probably Jean-Claude
Wolff's Symphony no.2"
Gerard Conde, Le Monde.
"Wolff, a distinguished and much-acclaimed French composer, obviously
has the taste and ear for striking sound, commencing this symphony with
deceptively modest violin theme, before allowing the Krakow orchestra
to revel in the power-laden and often percussive music with follows."
Sonate pour huit
violoncelles (Sonata for eight cellos)
"At the museum we attended a truly fascinating concert, with in particular
Jean-Claude Wolff's clever subtle and lyrical sonata."
Le Dauphine libere.
Poemes d'Alliance (Alliance Poems)
"Within which nudity should I wall in my body / so that the voice comes
/ that speaks like my soul". Those three verses taken from the "Alliance
Poems" by Andre Chedid that he chose to put in music for three wind
instruments and soprano voice (2000) echo the quest for essentiality
that henceforth steers his musical progression in a profound agreement
with the manifestations of inner life. Three timbres stretched in hues
- oboe or oboe d'amore, english horn and bassoon - support, prolong
or simply circle the always leading vocal profile, and this with an
extreme economy of means : a simple undulation of 2d, grey and obsessive
for the "woman of long patiences" or a chord with sombre resonance
to measure the emptiness of an existence deserted by hope."
Quatre pieces faciles (Four easy pieces)
"These pieces do not correspond to an appropriate use: musicality
takes over the virtuosity, which is however present (movement 4). The
movements are concise and the chosen formation of flute and percussion
instruments show originality while a repertory expands, repertory that
was previously destined to a great future and has now suffered from
a limited development.
The reader looking for analogies will find a few inflections a la Ton-That-Thiet,
a few 'added value' rhythms beloved by Messiaen (Movement 1) supporting
a melodic and atonal language, underlined by silences (Movement 3),
and climates worthy of Andre Jolivet. The timbres search is obvious:
each movement is personalised by a most fortunate alliance of timbres
with strong identity: flute, kettledrum and vibraphone for the first
movement, flute and skins (two bongos) for the second one, flute and
marimba for the third one and flute with piccolo and glockenspiel for
the fourth one. Each instrument is entirely soloist, which makes for
a clear listening of the piece.
Finally, the performer will not encounter any reading difficulty, as
the style is incredibly clear."
La Traversiere, Autumn 2003.
Trio pour guitares (Trio for guitars)
"Jean-Claude Wolff's Trio exalts the instrument rhythmic power and
transforms the three guitars in a sort of imperial harpsichord"
La Republique du Centre.
"The writing of the Septuor goes through alternating these extreme
states between paroxystic traits and shapes, where the main piano, joined
by the electric guitar, the harpsichord and the percussions, perpetuates
an effervescence that shatters the sonic space in a myriad of fine fragments...
contrasting with long stasises haunted by the quasi ghostly timbre of
the oboe and a recurring oscillation in half-tones: a phenomenon that
goes through the composer's entire work, like a permanent questioning."
Symphonie N° 1 (Symphony n.1)
"A violent piece, dramatic, lyrical, where bass tones and soft sonorities
clash in a sort of tidal wave. A strong piece that finds its sonic unity
in its finale"
Le Republicain lorrain.
Symphonie N°4 (Symphony n.4)
"Crossed by subterranean currents sustained by an ever moving
discourse, the fourth Symphony, in one piece, proceeds by erupting volleys,
red lava flows, hurling its fawn bursts where an astonishing sense of
form takes place."
Symphonie n° 5 (Symphony n.5)
"The "Fifth Symphony" of Jean-Claude Wolff was eagerly awaited, since
a gap of eight years separates it from the Fourth, a gap filled by what
might appear to be a series of small-scale works.
In fact Wolff's Septuor of 1988 is a virtual concerto for piano and
six instruments which manages to sustain impressive levels of volume
and tension throughout. Even the "Marche lente" for flute, harp and
percussion contains orchestral mannerisms. No surprise, then, that the
Fifth flaunts quantities of extrovert instrumental writing and a degree
of contrapuntal arborescence not to be found in Wolff's earlier symphonies,
of which the Second and the Fourth, at least, are marked by broad, solemn
There is also a more complex approach to structure. The "arch with interruptions"
of the Fourth Symphony gives way, in the same 2O minutes duration, to
a four-part dialectical construct. Two blocks of contrasting material
are subsequently superimposed and then disentangled in a rapture of
memory. The first section is characterised by flights of virtuoso horn
writing, proliferating counterpoint supported by rhythmic canons, and
a high degree of rhythmic tension. The melodic outlines are more compact
than, say, the long cantilenas for solo violin in Wolff's Second Symphony;
an essential role is played by the piano, the fruit one imagines of
Wolff's experience in writing the Septuor. The second section brings
contrast - steamy chromatic lines spun out in a slow and irregularly
moving polyphony. In the third section, material from the first two
is intensified by motivic shaping and by superposition with obvious
developmental intent. The "finale" brings simpler textures in which
much that is now familiar drifts by, notably a little solo for horn
and another for cello.
After the concert, Wolff told me he had no knowledge of any music having
been performed in Britain. A disquieting situation for a country that
prides itself on having been a refuge for symphonism in its darkest
hour, and the more so for a composer who is attacking the basic issue:
how create an image of symphonic thought without traditional key relations.
Conservative and avant-garde critics have mostly denies such a thing
is possible, in spite of Webern's insistence that the first movement
of op. 21 is in sonata form: as if the psychological factor were not