Denis Cuniot


Rare are the artists that give us the secrets to their work…Denis Cuniot is a piano genius, in the vein of the lively and moving Klezmer, which keeps alive these melodies' popular histories, be they somber or romantic. Literally, "klezmer" means "the instrument of the voice," and here the piano does not replace the orchestra, but it lends itself to chants, rhythm, and counterpoints—truly, to polyphony.

The Artist

At a young age, Denis Cuniot attended concerts by Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp and Cecil Taylor and was deeply impressed by the Black Power movement in the United States. The revelation that took place in the 1980s, where he was marked by the klezmer style, a music for weddings that was born in Jewish ghettos in Eastern Europe.

Truly a spearhead for the rediscovery of klezmer in France, and wanting to take out the fanfare and simple folklore to make a sort of chamber music, he co-founded in 1983 the duo Peylet-Cunio with Nano Peylet, a clarinet player with the group Bratsch. They recorded three albums, and in 1993 Cuniot also participated in the recording of the Nanon Peylet and Friends, which brought together several duos.

In 1995, he created the Orient Express Moving Schnorers, with whom he put out Les lendemains de la veille in the Transes Européennes collection directed by Pablo Cueco.

He left that group in 1998 to work on a solo piece in which he was the narrator and the pianist: Les rendez vous au métro Saint Paul, based on the short stories of Cyrille Fleischman. The production was performed nearly a hundred times at theaters in Ile Saint-Louis, Vieille Grille, Forum des images, and in the provinces.

In 2000, his determinant meeting with the young clarinet virtuoso Yomguih led him to produce The Golem on the Moon (radical klezmer) on Buda Musique. Between gentle ballads and gypsy sounds, the Yomguih-Cuniot duo played numerous festivals—at New Morning, the Maison de la Musique in Nanterre, at Issy-les-Moulineaux, Théâtre du Tambour Royal in Paris, at 7 Lézards…

In the fields of jazz and improvised music, he worked with different orchestras, including those of Pablo Cueco and the Michael Nick Trio.

Luminous melodies borrowed from nursery rhymes and lullabies, Denis Cuniot's album Confidential Klezmer, a 2007 favorite of the Académie Charles-Cros, brings together Oriental ornamentalism with Balkan traditions and hints of jazz, classical, and contemporary music.

Far from having exhausted his talents, Denis Cuniot also composes music for movies, most notable for filmmaker Robert Bober, including: Naissance de l'écriture (The Birth of Writing), L'esprit des lois (The Spirit of Laws), En remontant la rue Vilin (Going Back up la rue Vilin, a "cult favorite" in honor of Georges Perec). Robert Bober also used music by the Peylet-Cuniot duo in his films dedicated to Chagall and Kafka.

A prolific artist, Denis Cuniot also produced the music for Anne Quesemand's film Belleville Drancy par Grenelle (Belleville Nancy by Grenelle). He composed and performed live the music for the Tom Browning silent film No Woman Knows and improvises for Georges Mélies's movies, remaining faithful and particularly sensitive to the almost familial link between the narration and the music.

In the Press

A good idea to transpose to the piano the brassy swing of klezmer music. Denis Cuniot was a forerunner in the field, but this is the first time he has gone solo. He has free reign to go, without transitions, from the most wrenching melancholy to the most unbridled dance, while making reference to jazz, classical, and contemporary music. All of that without every losing sight of the lively whirling of Hassidic mystics and the gnashing humor of Yiddish poets, which are at the heart of this music born in Jewish ghettos in Eastern Europe—then revived through contact with Black American music.
Télérama, Eliane Azoulay 

A charming and surprising minimalism.
Le Monde, Patrick Labesse

Confidentiel Klezmer (...) is a total success, wherein the fervor and the pain of memories of a lost world are transformed by a game that has traditional melodies but calls on the formal rigor of the classical tradition as well as the sovereign liberty of jazz.
Le Nouvel Observateur, Bernard Loupias

With him, each melody is a story, and each one of his tales delivers a take on the world with a deeply moving acuity. Through a dozen traditional themes, Cuniot reclaims that art of narration with an eloquence that owes as much to the freedom of expression found in jazz as to the rigor of phrasing heard in classical music.
Les Inrockuptibles, Richart Robert

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