Biography of Jean Catoire by Malcom Bruno

Catherine Catoire | Malcom Bruno

Jean Catoire
Grand-nephew of Georgi Lvovitch CATOIRE, professor of composition at the Conservatoire russe de Musique de Paris, contemporary composer

   [...] over a forty-five year period, Jean Catoire has anticipated - and in many ways surpassed - the music of the well-known minimalist composers.

   Unlike most of his contemporaries, Catoire has maintained the language af triad and ritual repetition. But like the 'thin-bodied' sculpture of Giacometti's late period,there is an inexplicable attrition of pace in his mature work towards a continuous, uninterrupted stillness – a stasis which remains increasingly unchallenged. In his words, 'Si l'entendu existe, certes, il se manifeste d'abord dans le vision du son. Cette perception sonore-visuelle n'a cessé de croître dans toutes mes recherches avec toujours une parfaite concordance entre le "vu" initial et simultanément à moi le réalisable vu dans l'absolu, structures architectoniques trouvant leur réalisation dans le plan sonore?.

   Catoire's musical thought is essentially Pythagorean: it is the laying bare of pure musical sound, in which a worldly concern for the language of words and the rhythms of speech are of no consequence. As a 'music of the spheres' it recognises only the resonance and pulse of pure-being perceived in sound. The Requiem Antiphons of 1970 for example, display a music which is pure, exact and impassive ; yet it is a music which remains sensual. Unlike Arvo Part's beautiful but austere and fragile style Catoire's impassivity is immediately and unashamedly appealing. The 'Introit' refrain, which opens and closes the Requiem and recurs frequently throughout, is as beguiling as any moment from the Requiems of Fauré or Duruflé; unlike these, however, it never loses itself in the drama or sentiment of its text. The Requiem itself, a late work dating from 1991 which Catoire views as a postscript to the main body of his work, still exhibits the characteristics of the earlier Antiphons, which are perhaps the best examples of his 'Pythagorean' style on the "Extasia" disc.

   Malcolm Bruno, 1999