Catalogue for Karol Beffa



Beffa, Karol (b. 1973, Paris). French and Swiss pianist, composer and academic, of Polish descent

Composer member of the Villa of Composers; See Rules of Procedure for the Fund [Link]




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Karol Beffa, born in 1973, had a general education along with music studies after having been a child actor between the ages of seven and 12, appearing in more than 15 films (in particular, he performed with the Piccolo Teatro di Milano under the direction of Giorgio Strehler and portrayed the 8-year-old Mozart in a television film by Marcel Bluwal). Top of his class at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, he read history (Bachelor's degree), English (Master's), philosophy (Master's at Cambridge University) and mathematics, graduating from ENSAE (Graduate School of Economics, Statistics and Finance). Enrolling at the Paris Conservatoire in 1988, he obtained eight premiers prix (harmony, counterpoint, fugue, 20th-century music, orchestration, analysis, vocal accompaniment, piano improvisation). Coming first in the Agrégation de musique, a highly competitive examination for teachers, he taught at the Sorbonne (1998-2003) then at the Ecole Polytechnique (2003-08). In 2003, he earned his doctorate in musicology with a thesis on György Ligeti's Piano Etudes. Since 2004, he is a senior lecturer at the Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Pianist and improviser, Karol Beffa is a composer whose works have been performed in France (Salle Pleyel, Théâtre du Châtelet, Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, Auditorium Olivier Messiaen...), Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Russia, the United States and Japan by such well-known ensembles as A Sei Voci, Maîtrise de Radio France, Cambridge Voices, and the leading orchestras (Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestre National de l'Opéra de Lyon, Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Orchestre National de France, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen...).

In 2000, the Turin International Biennale of Young Artists (BIG Torino 2000) selected him to represent France, and in 2002, he was the youngest French composer programmed at the Présences festival. Since then, he has been guest composer at numerous festivals: Musique en Tréfilerie, Juventus, Bel-Air (2004, 2005), Périgord Noir Festival (2005, 2006), Suona francese, Auvers-sur-Oise, Pianissimes (2008), Young Talents, Les Vacances de Monsieur Haydn (2009), Voix du Printemps at the Sorbonne, 'Annecy Classic' (2010) and Musiques Vivantes (2014-2016).

In July 2005, his oratorio-ballet on the life of Mary Magdalene was performed on three occasions in Provence. March 2006 witnessed the first performance of a piece by the Orchestra of Pau, conducted by Fayçal Karoui: this was the first time in France that a public subscription was launched to commission a musical composition. As composer-in-residence of the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse (2006-09), Karol Beffa wrote Paradis artificiels (2007), a Violin Concerto, premiered by Renaud Capuçon (2008), and a Piano Concerto, first performed by Boris Berezovsky (2009). In September 2008, his Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp was premiered at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, a joint commission by Marie-Pierre Langlamet and the Berlin Philharmonic Foundation. In April 2009, his String Quartet was given its first performance by the Capuçon Quartet in Madrid. In addition, he has composed four incidental scores as well as the music for 20 films.

Karol Beffa is a fellow of the Institut de France in composition and won fellowships from the Lili and Nadia Boulanger Foundation (2001), the Music Academy of Villecroze, Natexis Foundation (2002) and Les Muses fellowship (2004). Finalist of the Prades International Composition Competition (2005, 2007), he has won the Charles Oulmont Prize (2005), the SACEM Young Composer Competition, the Chartier Prize of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (2008), the Victoires de la musique award in the “Best Composer” category (2013) and the Grand Prix Lycéen des Compositeurs award (2016). Finally, he was named an Officier des Arts et des Lettres.


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  • The Villa of Composers / bk3p-1927 / a-1409
  • Document revised: Fri, 27 Mar 2020 11:46:45 +0100

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  • 0080 Passacaille pour orgue for organ; 12 min., Unpublished, «Lorsque je me suis lancé dans l’écriture de cette Passacaille, la question que j’avais à l’esprit était la suivante : comment créer de la diversité à partir d’un principe unitaire fort, celui de la basse obstinée qu’impose le genre Passacaille ? Pour atteindre ce but, j'ai eu recours aux procédés suivants : j'ai varié le nombre de voix et la densité harmonique, j’ai joué sur différents types d’articulations rythmiques, j’ai introduit des parties secondaires, des ostinatos et des enchaînements peu conventionnels d’accords classés pour bénéficier du piment harmonique issu de rencontres de notes inattendues. L'œuvre entière baigne dans un climat néo-baroque, tantôt ludique lorsque les variations se succèdent selon des tonalités éloignées en un kaléïdoscope sonore, tantôt dramatique lorsque le discours musical se fixe un temps sur une tonalité donnée. Cette Passacaille m’a été commandée par le festival du Comminges, conjointement avec un Prélude pour orgue. Les deux pièces peuvent être jouées séparément. Olivier d’Ormesson a assuré la création de la Passacaille et du Prélude le 20 juin 2009, dans la collégiale de Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges.» Karol Beffa, bk3p-1927-CCN0080, 2012


  • 0050 Manhattan for viola, piano; 11 min., Billaudot, I wanted to recall the town's hustle, its energy, its background uproar - but which I considered from a distance and sometimes with a certain irony. This piece is built on a single, continuously renewed motif, whose successive variations form a paradoxically contrasted whole. The writing echoes today's musical styles (techno, funk, pop, etc.) in a choreographical motor-like scheme. This is a music of sensation rather than sentiment, swinging and pulsing, whose contagious energy can be heard as a hymn to speed., bk3p-1927-CCN0050, 2010
  • 0052 Les Ombres qui passent for violin, cello (or viola), piano; 20 min., Billaudot, The three movements can be played independently. Les Ombres qui passent opposes a typical clock-like central movement to two movements whose slowness is almost crepuscular and which are built on a theme made up of often split, almost Webernian intervals – such as sometimes augmented fourths and often major sevenths- but in an extended tonal context. It is the combination of that angular melodious pattern with clear harmonies (first movement) and a very slow harmonic rhythm (third movement) that gives the trio its low-key atmosphere. Conversely, the central movement — which was written first — is more animated, concise and compact; I had first intended to entitle it Stretto. Being partial to humour and mystifications, I had once written a short introductory text about that Trio in the form of a parody of abstruse reviews. As I consider it is now ancient history, I cannot resist the pleasure to repeat the hoax: “That Trio illustrates the global idea of the transformation of a group of chords into another, according to the principles of thermodynamics in an adiabatic environment.  The first movement is built on the first principle : ΔU= 0, U being by analogy a torsion factor worked out from the valencies of each musical note in a chord- those valencies being themselves linked to phenomena of acoustic resonance (the more consonant a chord, the smaller its valency; unison has a valency of 0, that of an octave is 2, and so on). If the first movement retains global energy, the second one, conversely, retains entropy, in accordance with the second principle of thermodynamics: ΔH = 0. One or several statistical matrices were then introduced so as to account for the fundamental incertitude induced by circumstantial temperature (tempo) and pressure (dynamics). The third movement explores what could be the first principle in a non-adiabatic environment: energy is not constant, frictions are introduced between elements, along with kinetic moderators. (Karol Beffa), bk3p-1927-CCN0052, 2010







  • BNF Bibliothèque nationale de France