Claude Lefebvre was born in 1931 in Ardres, Pas-de-Calais. He studied composition at the Paris Conservatory with Darius Milhaud then with Pierre Boulez, in Switzerland, at the Musik Akademie in Basel. In 1966 he settled in Metz where he was appointed teacher of analysis and composition at the Conservatory, a discipline previously inexistent in that institution. In parallel he taught at the University of Metz, where he was head of, notably, the module ‘History and practice of contemporary music’, a module open to the general public that rapidly welcomed an increasing number of listeners. From 1976 he also organised, on the Île du Saulcy, ‘Musiques au Campus’, thus making a start with musical activities on the Metz campus. Furthermore, he was in charge of musical events at the Centre Saint-Jacques in Metz. Later, in the 1990s, he prepared filmed interviews with composers, notably Luis de Pablo and Pierre Boulez, for the University of Metz.
In this way Claude Lefebvre has shown his determination to encourage the accessibility of contemporary music. In 1972 he initiated the foundation of the Cerm, Centre Européen pour la Recherche Musicale. He endowed it, in 1976, with an electro-acoustic music studio, where many pupil-composers came to advance their studies and produce electronic pieces. A pioneer in the domain of musical organisation in schools and universities, he - together with the team from the Cerm - introduced contemporary music into colleges and lycées. In the same vein, wishing to attract wider audiences than the specialised public, he founded, in 1972, and directed, the festival of Rencontres internationales de musique contemporaine de Metz. The programming he designed brought together the great figures of contemporary music and young talents coming from all horizons. He inaugurated ‘young audience’ sessions and extended these meetings, in 1976, to electro-acoustic music, with the participation of the GRM (Groupe de Recherche Musicale) and the electronic music studio of Cologne. He also placed importance on lectures. Most of the concerts of the Rencontres internationales de musique contemporaine de Metz were broadcast by French radio. For 19 years this festival held an international profile and more than 200 composers from Europe, the Americas and Asia attended the world premieres of their works in Metz. After this adventure, Lefebvre devised a smaller festival in Forbach: the Rendez-vous musique nouvelle (1996-2003).
Claude Lefebvre has composed electro-acoustic works (Le monde se mit à rêver, 1997), mixed (Lorraine, 1983; Toutes les têtes voltigent dans la nuit, 1999), purely instrumental (Montages, 1967; Etwas weiter, 1972) as well as vocal works (Virage…, 1987; Luzifer: in den hohen Trompeten der Bäume, 2000). He explores unusual instrumental formations as in Tournoiements (2007) for trumpet and string quartet, Rendez-vous 13 (2006) for 13 horns and D’une clarinette fauve (2005) for clarinet solo, ensemble of clarinets, trumpet, horn and trombone. He has also written teaching pieces, including Musique pour Isabel (1983), En rêvant sous la pluie (1984), Souvenirs (1985). He has shown a penchant for contrasts between dissonant and consonant harmonies, chromatic chords and also the phenomena of tension and relaxation. In addition, Claude Lefebvre is interested in the relationships with other arts such as painting (L’œil écoute…, 2008, accompanying the Carnet de Chine of the painter Didier Grasiewicz), literature, and especially poetry, to which he has always been devoted. His vocal works, and even some that are purely instrumental, are often the result of a poetic inspiration, whether from Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire or from his own poems, that have also been set to music by many other composers. Tournoiements (2007) was inspired by album of Pensées poétiques.
Although his first work, Montages, was badly received by the public at its first performance in 1967 at the Théâtre de Metz, Claude Lefebvre has been able to establish himself and be rewarded by his peers as much for his music as for his activity in support of contemporary music. He received the Grand Prix 1979 of the Académie Nationale of Metz and of the University, the Grand Prix for chamber music from the Sacem (1980) and became an Officier des Arts et Lettres in 1985.