Olivier Chassain was born in Paris, France in 1957. He began studying the guitar in Limousin with Roger Généraux and later became a well-rounded and founded guitarist under the guidance of Carel Harms. In 1977, Olivier was admitted to the Conservatoire de Paris where, in 1982, he earned a premier prize for his studies in guitar with Alexandre Lagoya; that same year, he also won a prize in counterpoint studies under Bernard de Crépy and one in harmony studies with Roger Boutry.
Nowadays, Olivier spends his time juggling three main activities that make up his professional life. He is of course a concert artist, whose career has taken on international proportions since he won First Prize at the GFA International Competition in 1988 – a feat that has since sparked a great renaissance (if you will) arguably inspiring top, French concert artists such as Judicaël Perroy, Jerémy Jouve and Gabriel Bianco, amongst others, who have also won first place at the GFAIC, in the aftermath of Chassain. Olivier found himself, at the time, to be the first non-American guitarist to win the prize all the while receiving the highest of praises for his GFA performances worldwide. The following year, in 1989, he performed throughout North America as part of the concert tour organized by GFA. He continues to be invited to North America, as well as many other continents to perform concerts and conduct masterclasses.
A little known fact is that Olivier Chassain is also a composer. He is the author of numerous works, most notably for the guitar, such as: «Échos fantasques» in memoriam of Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya, «Étoiles», «Arion», «De loin en loin» (a sonata for two guitars, 1995), «Doigts de fées» (2010) for flute and guitar, plus a sonata for solo guitar (2011), and he has also authored collections of pedagogical works such as «Patchwork», «Ad hoc» and «Brèves de pupitre» (2012).
Chassain is also a pedagogue whose career took flight in Orléans since 1978, following in the steps of his first professor, Roger Généraux (who himself earned the title of pedagogue after receiving his C.A. at age 21). In 1992, Chassain was nominated for an award at the Conservatoire Jacques Thibaud de Bordeaux for his work as a pedagogue, then in 1994, he was chosen to succeed his master Alexandre Lagoya as Professor of Guitar at the Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (Cnsmdp), where he continues to teach today.
Olivier Chassain regularly participates in music festivals, on top of teaching classes at the Conservatoire; these include festivals in summer academies across France as they’ve been held notably in Dordogne from 1995 to 2010 and at the Britten de Périgueux school directed by Jean-Jacques Rouveroux, an institute that organized classes covering all musical disciplines all year long taught by only the most solicited artists of international renown.
Thus, Olivier Chassain had the privilege to invite many of his friends, who were also renowned guitarists, such as J. Cogan, Nikita Koshkin, S. I. Fukuda, William Kanengiser, Dusan Bogdanovic, Stein-Erik Olsen, F. Zigante, L. Blanquart, H. Navez and Jim Smith.
Since 2010, he has organized new classes similar to these summer festivals in Limousin, which are held separately throughout the year.
Olivier Chassain’s repertoire boasts great versatility since he performs music from the Renaissance to contemporary music by today’s composers. Passionate about music of old, he is equally dedicated to the lute and vihuela as he is to the guitar, so that he may produce the proper sound and spirit demanded by such music. He is also very affectionate about French music from the “Great Age” (during the reign of Louis XIV in the mid-19th century) as well as Romantic music, all of which he enjoys playing alone or with the company of prominent artist like P. Gallois, Ph. Muller, P. H. Xuereb, R. Pidoux, E. Aubier, F. Pierre and G. Millière, among others.
Ardent defender of contemporary works, Olivier Chassain is the dedicatee of numerous pieces for guitar by composers the likes of Stephen Dodgson, Antonio Ruiz-Pipo, Thierry Pécou and Sean Heim, but also many concertos are dedicated to him such as: «Escales» by Roland Creuze, which was performed in Bordeaux with the ensemble Musique Nouvelle featuring Michel Fusté-Lambezat, Edith Lejet’s «Des fleurs en forme de diamants», a concerto by Alain-Michel Riou and most recently one by Alain Margoni.
Chassain has recorded many CDs under different labels, including: Almost a song (Metronome recordings) which was crowned highly by the whole world of music and of which Classica, a music review site at the time, expressed they were huge fans. A notable album dedicated to the integral works of Ida Presti, which was the first recording ever to do this, was made in a duo setting under the Simax label with Norwegian guitarist Stein-Erik Olsen, and it received a laudatory reception among music critics – it was ranked ‘top 5’ in the Top 10 best classical music albums of 2009 in Scandanavia.
Many more recordings are in the works, especially a second album with friend Stein-Erik Olsen, under the Simax label once again, which will include tracks of original works that were dedicated to the beloved Presti-Lagoya Duo.
-English translation by Reyes Gonzalez
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