Belgian composer born 16 December 1964 in Bastogne.
Benoît Mernier began studying organ with Firmin Decerf before joining the Royal Conservatoire of Liège. At the Conservatoire, he was awarded numerous awards as well as a degree in organ from Jean Ferrard’s class, to whom he was assistant for several years. After two years of training with Jean Boyer, Mernier discovered contemporary music on meeting Claude Ledoux, Henri Pousseur, Bernard Foccroulle, Célestin Deliège, and Philippe Boesmans, who went on to study composition alongside him.
A teacher and a performer, Mernier plays as a soloist with a repertoire going from early music (seventeenth to eighteenth century) to Romantic music and contemporary works. His compositions have been commissioned by festivals such as Ars Musica, Festival Présences, Wien Modern, and Gaudeamus Festival, and have been played by musicians and ensembles such as Patrick Davin, Pascal Rophé, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Danel Quartet, the Trio Medici, the Trio Fibonacci, Ensemble Ictus, Musiques Nouvelles, Spectra Ensemble, the Chœur de Chambre de Namur, La Monnaie Symphony Orchestra, the Liège Royal Philharmonique, the Belgian National Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, and the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Over 2002 and 2003, Mernier was composer-in-residence at the Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, and at the Austrian festival Carinthischer Sommer. His first opera Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening) was premiered in 2007 at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, which commissioned the work. This piece underwent a new production in 2015 in a version for chamber orchestra, and is also the subject of a monograph. Recorded by the label Cyprès and released in a CD–DVD box set, the piece was awarded the Diaposon d’Or in 2009. Mernier was also the guest of honor at the 2008 Festival de Wallonie. In 2013, his second opera, La Dispute, was premiered, based on Pierre de Marivaux’s prose comedy of the same name. Mernier participated in the Pierrot Rewrite project launched by Musiques Nouvelles, for which he set one of Belgian symbolist poet Albert Giraud’s Pierrot lunaire poems to music.
Having taught music analysis for about ten years in several Belgian arts schools, Mernier became professor of organ and improvisation at the Institut Supérieur de Musique et de Pédagogie (IMEP) in Namur until 2019 when he became professor of organ at the Royal Conservatoire de Bruxelles. He has been a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium in the class of fine arts since 2007. He is also lead organist at the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon in Brussels.
Mernier’s catalogue gives pride of place to the organ, such as in Artifices (1989), Cinq Inventions (Five Inventions) (1998-2001), Toccata (2004), and Missa Christi Regis Gentium (2000). The piano also takes center stage in his oeuvre, in songs such as Esquisse (Sketch) (2002), Les Ombres errantes (Wandering Shadows) (2004), Couleurs astrales (Astral Colors) (1986), and Les Idées heureuses (Happy Ideas) (1997-2000). These pieces explore a kind of counterpoint that Mernier has labeled “oblique,” meaning that it turns toward the interplay of textures rather than construction by blocks. Frühlings Erwachen (Spring Awakening) is a good example. According to Belgian pianist Jean-Luc Fafchamps, Mernier does not belong to a particular school. His approach to writing is one of understanding the music that precedes him, and his aim is not so much to break with tradition as to confront it. This approach explains the majority of his catalogue being in traditional forms, such as piano concerto, mass, and opera.
His work is released by Durand, Billaudot, and XXI Music Publishing and is recorded by the label Cyprès.
Prizes and Awards
- Selection of Cinq Inventions for organ for the International Society for Contemporary Music festival, 2003
- Paul Gilson Award for Quintette avec clarinette (Quintet with Clarinet), awarded by the Community of French-Language Public Radio, 1999
- Fuérison Prize for Blake Songs for voice and chamber orchestra, awarded by the Belgian Royal Academy, 1995
- UNESCO International Composers’ Tribune for Artifices for organ, 1990
Forum des compositeurs, Forum Opera, Orchestre philharmonique royal de Liège
- Solo (excluding voice)
- Artifices for organ (1989), 10 mn
- Cinq Inventions for organ (1998-2001), 22 mn, Billaudot
- Esquisse for piano (2002), 4 mn 30 s
- Les ombres errantes for piano (2004), 6 mn
- Toccata for organ (2004), 4 mn, Billaudot
- Cadenza for harp (2009), 4 mn
- Choral "Le don des larmes" for large symphonic organ (2009), 14 mn
- GO! miniatures for beginner organists (2013), 10 mn
- Pange lingua 4 verses in counterpoint to the Hymn Pange lingua by Nicolas de Grigny, for organ (2013), 14 mn
- Chamber music
- Couleurs astrales for two pianos (1986)
- Hexagones for six instruments (1987)
- Musique pour piano et percussion (1987)
- Ecarts for piano and marimba (1988), 12 mn
- Ensemble for piano and percussion (1989)
- Taloum for violin and viola (1990), 10 mn
- Stream for string quartet (1991), 12 mn
- Amore pedestre music for the film Amore pedestre by M. Fabre (1914) for quintet for clarinet and strings (1998), 6 mn, Billaudot
- Quintette for clarinet and strings, concert version (1999), 10 mn
- Les Idées Heureuses for two pianos and two keyboard percussions (1997-2000), 25 mn, Billaudot
- Esquisse Ia for two trumpets (2002), 2 mn
- Esquisse Ib for two oboes (2002), 2 mn
- Esquisse Ic for two flutes (2002), 2 mn
- Esquisse IIa for piano and violin (2002), 4 mn
- Esquisse IIb for clarinet in Bb and piano (2002), 4 mn
- Images Homage to Debussy's Sonata, for flute, viola and harp (2002), 15 mn, Billaudot
- Upon Teares 5 pieces on John Dowland Lachrimae, for consort of five viols (2002), 45 mn
- Trio for violin, cello and piano (2003), 15 mn
- La guêpe et l'orchidée for string quartet (2010), 20 mn
- String Quartet n°3 string quartet in nine movements (2013), 25 mn
- Instrumental ensemble music
- Revenir for ten instruments (1990-1991), 14 mn
- Intonazione for orchestra (1995), 17 mn, Billaudot
- Les Niais de Sologne for eight instruments (1999), 13 mn, Billaudot
- Nachfrühling for chamber orchestra (2007), 12 mn
- Vi(v)a! for symphony orchestra (2010), 9 mn
- Cependant... nano-piece for twelve musicians (2012), 50 s
- Comme d'autres esprits for symphony orchestra (2019), 15 mn, XXI Music Publishing
- Ustica for ensemble (2019), 15 mn, XXI Music Publishing
- Concertant music
- After Images for solo harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet (2002), 3 mn 30 s
- Concerto for piano and orchestra (2008), 28 mn
- Concerto for violin and orchestra (2014), 30 mn, Durand
- Orchestration du Choral n°2 en si mineur, FWV 39 de César Franck for organ and symphony orchestra (2020), 12 mn, XXI Music Publishing
- Vocal music and instrument(s)
- Blake songs six-part cycle for soprano and 13 instrumentalists (1992-1994), 27 mn, Billaudot
- Missa Christi Regis Gentium for mixed choir and large organ (2000), 37 mn
- An die Nacht for soprano and orchestra (2001-2002), 20 mn
- Verklärter Herbst for voice (several versions) and piano (2003), 5 mn
- Stille Feste for mixed choir and old instruments (2004), 12 mn
- stage Frühlings Erwachen opera based on the homonymous piece by Frank Wedekind, for 12 singers, youth choir and symphony orchestra (2004-2006), 2 h 30 mn
- Begräbnis von Moritz for youth choir and piano (2009), 5 mn
- Un hémisphère dans une chevelure for soprano and piano (2009), 10 mn
- Deux mélodies for soprano and piano (2010), 9 mn
- Arie Wendla for soprano and organ (2011), 6 mn
- stage La Dispute one-act comedy, in prose and music, based on the work of Marivaux, for seven singers, an actress and orchestra (2012), 1 h 50 mn, Durand
- stage Frühlings Erwachen opera based on the homonymous piece by Frank Wedekind, version for chamber orchestra (16 instruments) (2014), 2 h 30 mn
- Heine-Lieder for female voice and string quartet (2015), 20 mn
- Wolf Lieder instrumentation of 9 Lieder by Hugo Wolf, for voice, clarinet, string quartet and piano (2015), 25 mn
- Chant d'exil for female voice, piano and cello (2018), 13 mn, XXI Music Publishing
- Orchestration du Choral n°2 en si mineur, FWV 39 de César Franck for organ and symphony orchestra, 12 mn, XXI Music Publishing
- Chant d'exil for female voice, piano and cello, 13 mn, XXI Music Publishing
- Arie Wendla for soprano and organ, 6 mn
- Concerto for piano and orchestra, 28 mn
- Nachfrühling for chamber orchestra, 12 mn
- stage Frühlings Erwachen opera based on the homonymous piece by Frank Wedekind, for 12 singers, youth choir and symphony orchestra, 2 h 30 mn
- After Images for solo harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet, 3 mn 30 s
- An die Nacht for soprano and orchestra, 20 mn
- Esquisse for piano, 4 mn 30 s
- Esquisse IIa for piano and violin, 4 mn
- Esquisse IIb for clarinet in Bb and piano, 4 mn
- Esquisse Ia for two trumpets, 2 mn
- Esquisse Ib for two oboes, 2 mn
- Esquisse Ic for two flutes, 2 mn
- Images Homage to Debussy's Sonata, for flute, viola and harp, 15 mn, Billaudot
- Upon Teares 5 pieces on John Dowland Lachrimae, for consort of five viols, 45 mn
- Cinq Inventions for organ, 22 mn, Billaudot
- Amore pedestre music for the film Amore pedestre by M. Fabre (1914) for quintet for clarinet and strings, 6 mn, Billaudot
- Intonazione for orchestra, 17 mn, Billaudot
- Blake songs six-part cycle for soprano and 13 instrumentalists, 27 mn, Billaudot
- Taloum for violin and viola, 10 mn
- Ecarts for piano and marimba, 12 mn
- Couleurs astrales for two pianos
- Forum des compositeurs : www.compositeurs.be
- Durand-Salabert-Eschig : www.durand-salabert-eschig.com
- XXI Music Publishing : www.21music-publishing.com
- Chaîne YouTube : www.youtube.com
- Jean-Luc FAFCHAMPS, « Frühlings Erwachen de Benoît Mernier : éléments d’analyse », à lire ici.
- Pierre-Emmanuel LEPHAY, « Benoît Mernier, une révélation », Forum Opéra, 2008, à lire ici.
- Isabelle FRANÇAIX, « Benoît Mernier. La forme en quête de naturel », Musiques Nouvelles, 2012, à lire ici.
(liens vérifiés en avril 2021).
- Robert WANGERMÉE (éd.), L’Éveil du Printemps, naissance d’un opéra, Wavre, Mardaga, 2007.
- Benoît MERNIER, Dickinson Songs ; Concerto Pour Orgue, dans « A Wake of Music », 1 CD Cypres, 2018, CYP4649.
- Benoît MERNIER, Hymne Pange Lingua, dans « Hymnes », 1 CD Aeolus, 2017.
- Benoît MERNIER, Concerto pour violon ; Vi(v)a! ; Concerto pour piano, dans « La grâce exilée », 1 CD Cypres, 2016.
- Benoît MERNIER, « Révélations », Ami Hoyano, orgue, 1 CD Ctésibios, 2013.
- Benoît MERNIER, Deux Mélodies, Sophie Karthäuser : soprano, Cédric Tiberghien : piano, dans « Green », 1 CD Cypres, 2011, CYP1664.
- Benoît MERNIER, « Frühlings Erwachen », 2 CD Cypres, 2008, CYP4628.
- Benoît MERNIER, Trio à clavier No.1 ; An die Nacht ; Blake songs, dans « An Die Nacht », 1 CD Cypres, 2006, CYP4624.
- Benoît MERNIER, Images, dans « Debussy’s Corner », 1 CD Cypres, 2003, CYP1637.
- Benoît MERNIER, Quintette pour clarinette et cordes ; Les Niais de Sologne ; Les Idées Heureuses ; Intonazione, dans « Les Idées Heureuses », 1 CD Cypres, 2002, CYP4613.
- Benoît MERNIER, « Missa Christi Regis Gentium / Inventions pour orgue », 1 CD Cypres, 2001, CYP4612.