Obituary: Geneviève Joy pianist

James Jolly15th Dec 2009

The French pianist and teacher, Geneviève Joy, has died aged 90. She is survived by her husband, the French composer Henri Dutilleux.

She started playing the piano at an early age and entered the Paris Conservatoire aged 12, where as well as the traditional piano curriculum she also worked on accompaniment and sight-reading, a skill that stood her in good stead as her interest in contemporary music developed. She carried off the first prize in most of her subjects at the Conservatoire.

Though she played music by many of the leading French composers, it was the music of Dutilleux to which she was most devoted. They met in 1942 and married within a few years (their marriage lasted 63 years). The first work he wrote for her after their marriage was his Piano Sonata, his Opus 1 – it was a work she recorded twice, the second recording for Erato (most recently available as an Ultima reissue) is only a few seconds different in overall timing than the earlier one.

Alongside her work as a solo pianist, she formed a two-piano and piano duet partnership with Jacqueline Bonneau, and a piano trio, the Trio de France, with the violinist Jeanne Gautier and the cellist André Levy. The duo commissioned music from a host of contemporary composers and the 10 chosen to celebrate the ensemble’s 25th anniversary reads like a Who’s Who of France’s leading composers.

Joy recorded extensively, mainly for Erato, World Record Club and Adès, and her repertoire on disc included – in addition to her husband’s music – works by Schubert, Dukas, Milhaud, Georges Auric and Maurice Ohana. She recorded a disc of French music for four hands with Anne Quéffelec and a disc of music for horn and piano with Georges Barboteau.

An enthusiastic teacher as well as performer, Joy gave masterclasses and also served as a juror in piano competitions. Among the many pianists who played for her was Lise de la Salle.

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