A Swiss composer born in 1958 in Genève.
In parallel to music, Michael Jarrell studied the visual arts before entering the Geneva Conservatory in the composition class of Éric Gaudibert. He continued his training at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik of Freiburg im Brisgau with Klaus Huber who was a veritable mentor for him. After composition courses at Tanglewood (USA, 1979) and Ircam (1986-1988), Jarrell was in residence in Rome (1988-1990) at the Villa Medici then at the Institut Suisse.
Inspired by painting, sculpture and literature, Jarrell develops, as though in a sketch book, figures that are found repeatedly in his works. He works on instrumental gesture, on the organisation of tone-colour and he polarises melodic expression around pivot notes, or ‘mother-notes’ as he calls them. Interested in both virtuosity and simplicity and also in the fragility of the moment, he is permanently seeking the good note, that which is able to express a whole world. A predilection for low registers, repeated notes, a sense of resonance and a directionality between tension and resolution are some of the elements that constitute his work. Jarrell composes for all formations, from solo instrument to orchestra, without forgetting the voice. His works include Assonance III for bass clarinet, cello and piano, first performed by the Quasar Trio in Amsterdam (1989); Cassandre, monodrama for actress, instrumental ensemble and electronics, first performed by Marthe Keller and the Ensemble Intercontemporain conducted by David Robertson at the Théâtre du Châtelet (1994); Music for a while for instrumental ensemble, first performed by the Klangforum Wien conducted by Mark Foster at the Abbaye de Royaumont (1995); Le père, music theatre for reciter, soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto and six percussionists, first performed by Gilles Privat, Susanne Leitz-Lorey, Raminta Babickaite, Truike van der Poel and Les Percussions de Strasburg at the festival of Schwetzingen in Germany (2010); Émergences-Résurgences, concerto for viola and orchestra premiered by Tabea Zimmermann and the Orchestre National des Pays de la Loire conducted by Pascal Rophé at the festival Musica (2016); Bérénice, opera for soloists, chorus and orchestra, first performed by the orchestra and chorus of Paris National Opera conducted by Philippe Jordan at the Opéra Garnier (2018); Le point est la source de tout… (Epitome II) for flute, first performed by Emmanuel Pahud live-streamed from the Pierre-Boulez-Saal in Berlin at the Festival of New Music (2020).
Michael Jarrell has also taught composition at the Musikhochschule in Vienna since 1993 and at the Geneva Conservatory since 2004.