The French composer, Philippe Hersant, was born in Rome. His studies included literature as well as music and he took harmony classes with Georges Hugon before entering André Jolivet's composition class at the Paris Conservatory in 1968, receiving his undergraduate degree in literature that same year. Resident at the Casa de Velásquez from 1970 to 1972, Philippe Hersant went on to teach music and to become a producer at the radio station France Musiques.
In 1978 he became a resident at the Villa Médicis thanks to the support of Henri Dutilleux and Gilbert Amy. It was during this period that he truly came into his own as a composer. Stances for orchestra thus became his new first opus and is the earliest work in his catalogue. This piece was followed by several other, more melancholic works such as Missa brevis, the chamber opera les Visites espacées (Avignon, 1983) and the opera le Château des Carpathes (1982), based on a work by Jules Verne. He composed a number of shorter and more dynamic works for small instrumental ensembles before returning to the orchestral and greater forms with his Second Concerto for cello and the ballet Hurlevent (Palais-Garnier, 2002). He is currently working on an opera based on a Chekhov story, The Black Monk, and this will be premiered by the Leipzig Opera in 2005.
Today, Philippe Hersant defines himself as a tonal composer willing to turn music’s entire heritage – from Monteverdi to Janacek to Stockhausen – to his advantage. As a composer, he lives by a few precepts : to be personal rather than to seek innovation at all costs, to avoid greyness and to surprise.