Les Percussions de Strasbourg

It all began in 1959, when Pierre Boulez was invited to conduct his work “Le Visage Nuptial” in Strasbourg. To form the large desk of percussions he needed, musicians from the Strasbourg Orchestra and the ORTF orchestra were brought together. The six young musicians – Bernard Balet, Jean Batigne, Lucien Droeller, Jean-Paul Finkbeiner, Claude Ricou and Georges Van Gucht – driven by a common innovative will and a strong friendship, then decided to create a percussion ensemble : repertoire, choice of instruments, everything had to be invented … the “Groupe Instrumental à Percussion” was born and later became “Les Percussions de Strasbourg”.

The first concert was given at the ORTF, on 17 January 1962, in the presence of French composer Serge Nigg. Very quickly, the ensemble inspires the creation of a new repertoire by composers such as Messiaen, Stockhausen, Serocki, Kabelac, Ohana, Xenakis, Mâche or Dufourt … As Pierre Boulez says later: “A repertoire was necessary for the Groupe, but the Groupe has made the repertoire necessary.”

In 1967, the six percussionists perform “Ionization” of Varèse, in agreement with the composer, while the score requires the participation of… thirteen percussionists. They carried this off with musical mastery and dramatic brio and opened the doors of success to a hitherto unprecedented musical genre. Thereafter, Les Percussions de Strasbourg has, and continues to actively commission and innovate, travelling all around the world to perform at major international festivals. Through their many travels and a strong collusion with the composers, they actively contribute to the sound research and the invention of new instruments, such as the “sixxen” designed by Xenakis.

In 2015, Jean Geoffroy becomes artistic director, the team expands and gradually integrates the fourth generation of Percussions de Strasbourg. Constantly revisiting the contemporary heritage, innovating it with the evolution of new technologies and the expansion of scenic practices and expression: that is the challenge to invent and explore the wide field of world percussion in the 21st century.

Les Percussions de Strasbourg has performed more than 1,600 concerts in 70 countries since its inception, has a repertoire of more than 300 original works written for them, has developed one of the most unique ‘instrumentarium’ in the world with over 500 instruments, has published over 30 recordings, and been awarded more than 30 international prizes.


As of January 2017

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