Olivier Greif’s father was a doctor and Auschwitz survivor who relocated his family to Paris following the war; Olivier was born in Paris in 1950 and began piano study at age 3, and by age 9 had written his first composition for piano. He was promptly enrolled in the Paris Conservatory, and won the grand prize for composition at age seventeen. Although the vast majority of his compositions are for the piano, he also wrote chamber works, quartets and cantatas. Greif died suddenly in 2000 at age 50 in his Paris apartment; an autopsy proved inconclusive as to the cause of death.
The main work here, the Sonata de Requiem for piano and cello, dates from 1979, although it was revised as late as 1993, and was written following the death of his mother. The piece was intended to not only mark a period of grieving, but also to highlight Greif’s belief that death is not the end of life, but merely one of life’s many episodes. Greif had a great appreciation for the works of Richard Strauss and Mahler, and he also had a great regard for the chamber works of Shostakovich; I clearly hear the influence of Shostakovich throughout this excellent disc. While undeniably melancholic, the Sonata de Requiem is also brimming with optimism. The second work, his Piano Trio, dates from 1998, and is also very reminiscent of Shostakovich, though I find it more jarring and unsettling than the corresponding trio of Shostakovich.
This is essential, challenging listening, especially for those enamoured with twentieth century chamber works. The disc is very well recorded, and the players are superb. I’m especially taken with cellist Emmanuelle Bertrand and pianist Pascal Amoyel; their excellent work on Harmonia Mundi’s recent release of Richard Strauss sonatas was also very impressive. Very highly recommended.
— Tom Gibbs