Serge Blanc was born in Paris on December 31, 1929. He began studying music and violin at the age of six. A child prodigy, he passed the entrance examination at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris at the exceptional age of ten and entered the class of Jules Boucherit. He won the First Prize in Violin three years later, and the Honor Award in Chamber Music.
Born to Jewish parents of Romanian origin and having just passed the entrance examination to the conservatory, Serge Blanc was hidden during the years of Nazi occupation by his Professor Jules Boucherit (later named Righteous Among the Nations for protecting Jews during the war). Boucherit and Claude Delvincourt, director of the Conservatory at that time, resisted and even had the audacity to organize public recitals for little Serge Blanc at the risk of their lives while the Jews were being hunted in the middle of the war and in Nazi-occupied Paris.
In 1941, just eleven years old, he performed as soloist with the Orchestre Colonne under the direction of Louis Fourestier. At thirteen, he was engaged by the Orchestre Pasdeloup and was presented to the Parisian public performing the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major of Mozart and the Havanaise of Saint-Saëns. He gave another recital at the Salle Gaveau at fifteen years for which he received unanimous praise from the press and masters of that time such as Jacques Thibaud, with whom he worked, and Alfred Cortot, with whom he performed in concert the sonatas of Reynaldo Hahn and Fauré.
For two consecutive years (1946-1947), Serge Blanc was sent by the Minister of Fine Arts on tour to represent French music in other European countries. In 1949, he won the Grand Prix International Marguerite Long - Jacques Thibaud. He then met the famous violinist and composer Georges Enescu whose valuable advice he followed for many years (see Bach Sonatas and Partitas below), and with whom he performed at the Salle Gaveau (the recording of this exceptional concert is available here). He also worked with Nadia Boulanger, attending her famous classes on rue Ballu in Paris, and his relationship with her continued until her death in 1979.
In 1952 Serge Blanc visited the United States. He was immediately hired by the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the Tanglewood Summer Festival, where he played under the direction of Charles Munch. He was rehired the following year, and worked with Leonard Bernstein, and later made the first recording in France of Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin and Orchestra (available here). He won several scholarships to the Juilliard School of Music in New-York from where he graduated. He studied with the famous Ivan Galamian as well as orchestral conducting and that same year, he won the Jascha Heifetz Prize at the Berkshire Music Center. He returned to France the following year, and founded the Serge Blanc Quartet. In 1958, he won the Enescu competition in Bucharest with pianist Pierre Vozlinsky.
Serge Blanc was deeply passionate about chamber music. He founded the Pro Arte Quartet and Trio Da Camera with whom he made many concert tours in France and throughout the world with, among others, pianist and composer Odette Gartenlaub, violist Christos Michalakakos and the composer and pianist Antonio Ruiz-Pipò. The latter in 1987 composed and dedicated to Blanc his "Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra". In 1962 he joined the Orchestra of the Paris Opera as second violin solo.
In 1973, he became music director of the Orchestre National de Radio France (then the ORTF). He engaged the greatest conductors, including Sergiu Celibidache, Lorin Maazel, Leonard Bernstein. He left Radio France two years later and resumed his position at the Opera Orchestra of Paris where he remained until his retirement.
Alongside his music career, Serge Blanc continued an intense pedagogical activity: he was a professor at the École Normale de Musique de Paris where he started the chamber music class, professor of violin and chamber music at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris, and gave private lessons, especially in chamber music.
Beyond being a great artist, Serge Blanc, married in 1967, was a great man and father. He died June 29, 2013 in Paris.
Serge Blanc and his master Jules Boucherit (1942)
Serge tu as joué comme un ange
Serge you played like an angel Jacques Thibaud, 5th of May 1942
... the violin competition brought to us the revelation of a young violinist of fourteen years, Serge Blanc, who has a keen sense of phrasing. Arthur Hoérée, June 1944
If chamber music is the form of music that provides the most satisfaction to music lovers worthy of the name, it's also the one from which we expect the most perfection. From an instrumental quartet, it will demand a range of qualities: perfect intonation, cohesion, intelligent interpretation which is measured, delicate and nuanced, but not bland. The Serge Blanc quartet has united all these qualities. The Tribune (Saint-Etienne)
... the vibrant and communicative sensitivity of a true artist. Infinite charm in the phrasing. A charm that allows us to consider him a new Jacques Thibaud. Arts
A small boy of 11 years, Serge Blanc amazes with an interpretation delicate, spiritual, perfect in style and technique in the Viotti concerto. Here, the triumph is as complete as it is unanimous. A. Dandelot, April 1942
Serge Blanc, Mozartean at 12 years old, a born performer if ever there was, graceful, precise, brilliant and whose bow worked wonders at the Theatre du Chatelet in the concerto of Viotti. R. de Saussine, July 1942
Serge Blanc, a young French virtuoso, showed a great technical ability placed in the service of the most perfect musical expression. The Times, London
Serge Blanc is essentially what he will always be, that is to say, a great artist. New York Times
During the years of instruction he received from master Georges Enescu, Serge Blanc collected and marked technical and interpretive indications for what Enescu called "The Himalayas of violinists" : the Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin by Johann Sebastian Bach.
This exceptional document brings together these notes which regard sonority, phrasing, tempo, fingering, and expression, the culmination of the life’s work of a master considered as one of the greatest interpreters of this work.
After having taught his own students for more than half a century, Serge Blanc wished to pass on to future generations of violinists the valuable guidance of Georges Enescu by collecting and commenting on his notes. Here they are, available in a single document for free download.
Click to play
Trio de l'Opéra de Paris
Violin : Serge Blanc
Alto : Bruno Pasquier
Cello : Georges Schwartz
Year : 1974