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Juan Lémann niño
Juan Lémann as a child

Pianist, composer and educator Juan Lémann was born in Vendôme, France, on August 7, 1928 and died in Santiago, Chile, on May 16, 1998. He arrived in Chile in 1932, aged 4, with his mother and grandmother, members of a family of French farmers –the Dufeus- who had settled in Chile in 1884. His father, Pierre Lémann, who fought gallantly in WWI, had passed away in Dijon two years earlier and his mother, Pauline Cazabon, decided to return with her family to her native Chile.


Juan Lémann with Viña del Mar Symphony Orchestra, 1956.

Juan Lémann graduated in 1948 from the Sacred Hearts High School in Santiago, with a Bachelor's degree in Humanities, majoring in mathematics and drawing. As a young child he had begun to study the piano at the National Conservatory of the University of Chile with noted teachers René Amengual and Rosita Renard, complementing his artistic and music education under professors such as Jorge Urrutia Blondel and Domingo Santa Cruz. At the age of 16 he began to study composition with Pedro Humberto Allende. As a student he took the Conservatory’s distinguished Orrego Carvallo (1949) and Rosita Renard (1951) piano awards, graduating summa cum laude in 1954. He subsequently continued perfecting his piano technique with Germán Berner and Alberto Spikin-Howard and studying composition under maestros Juan Orrego Salas and Gustavo Becerra. While from 1948 to 1950 he studied architecture at the Catholic University of Chile, he would soon decide to devote himself solely to his music. From ages 20 to 32 (1948-1960), Juan Lémann had a brilliant career as a solo pianist, appearing in concert with the Chilean Symphony Orchestra and performing at numerous educational concerts and recitals in Santiago and throughout Chile. His appearances met with much critical acclaim as he was increasingly recognised as a gifted performer and a foremost member of the Chilean music scene. His vast repertoire was noted for his skillful rendition of complex works and extensive range of styles and authors. His performances never failed to feature pieces from Chilean composers. In 1950, at age 22, he began teaching piano privately and at music schools and academies, tutoring students all through auditions for the National Conservatory. From 1955 to 1957 he organised concerts and cultural programs for the Catholic University of Chile. From 1957 to 1961 he taught arts and music at the Experimental School of the Arts of the Ministry of Education, where he also distinguished himself as Choir Director and instructor, as well as director and advisor to other coral ensembles.

Composers S. Claro, L. Schidlowsky, M. Morel, A. Quinteros and J. Lémann at the opening of the Contemporary Music Group, 1960.

In 1960 he gave his last public concert following a decision to devote himself solely to teaching and composing –his long-time calling- and to other life interests. That year he and Samuel Claro, Leon Schidlowsky, Marcelo Morel and Darwin Vargas founded the Contemporary Music Group, an institution dedicated to fostering music creation in Chile.

In 1961 Juan Lémann joined the Faculty of Arts of the University of Chile, where he would have a distinguished 37-year academic career as both Full Professor and Vice Dean. He taught piano, composition and related subjects, and held senior positions at the University of Chile and other cultural institutions.

J.Lémann y jacob Druckman
J. Lémann and U.S. composer Jacob Druckman.
New York, 1981.

In 1970 he received a Fulbright Award to join New York’s prestigious Juilliard School of Music as Visiting Professor and conduct post-doctoral research on contemporary music. Juilliard’s weekly forum series gave him the chance to meet and exchange ideas with some of the great U.S. and European composers of the time.

JLémann mientro de número de academia de Bellas Artes
Juan Lémann is received as Full Member of the CHilean Academy of Fine Arts by Domingo Santa Cruz, 1983.



At Juilliard he lectured extensively on Chilean music and worked on orchestrations with noted U.S. composer Jacob Druckman. Upon his return to Chile, he rejoined the Faculty of Arts. He was elected a full member to the Chilean Academy of Fine Arts in 1983 and was nominated to the National Arts Prize in 1986.

While a heart condition forced him to retire in 1988, he maintained his association with the Faculty of Arts in an emeritus capacity and remained an active composer and member of the Chilean music scene to his death. Indeed, in 1996 he traveled to Russia at the invitation of the Chilean Embassy. In Moscow he presented his music, shared experiences with Russian musicians and composers, and showcased works by Chilean composers.

Dr. Igor Lazarev, Director del Depto. Cultura de la Municipalidad de Moscú; Embajador de Chile, James Holger; Prof. Andrei Podgomy, Director de la Academia Musical Gnesin y Juan Lemann, 1996.
Dr. Igor Lazarev, Director of the Culture Department of Moscow City Council; Chilean Ambassador, James Holger; Prof. Andrei Podgomy, Director of the Gnessin Music Academy and Juan Lémann, Moscow, 1996.

Juan Lémann held numerous positions throughout his fruitful life. He was President of the Composers Association of Chile and a member of its board for several years; a full member of the Chilean Academy of Fine Arts, and Vice Dean of the Faculty of Arts of the University of Chile. He was also co-founder and active member of several arts and cultural groups and associations, including the Contemporary Music Group; the Author Rights Department of the University of Chile; the Inter-American Music Education Institute of the Organisation of American States; the Chilean Music Council, local chapter of the UNESCO International Music Council; the Archdiocesan Sacred Music Commission; the Latin American Forum for Music Education; the Chilean Author’s Rights Society and the Fulbright Alumni Association, to mention but a few. He lectured extensively in Chile and abroad and was a member of the jury at many national and international competitions. His articles were published in a range of scholarly journals.

Celebracion 50 Aniversario de la ANC
Celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the National Association of Composers and first performance of Lémann's Concert Overture, 1986. Among those attending, the composers Miguel Letelier, Juan Amenábar, Ida Vivado, Santiago Vera, Carlos Riesco, Alfonso Letelier and Juan Lémann, Conductor Jacques Bodmer and the pianist Margarita Herrera.

A multifaceted, learned man, throughout his vast artistic career Juan Lémann was noted for his versatility. His imagination, sensitivity and extraordinary talent for improvisation helped him write for many music genres and styles. His catalogue includes pieces for orchestra, chamber ensembles, solo instruments, singers and choirs, as well as scores for ballets, films, plays, documentaries and mime performances, institutional anthems and other works of an educational and religious nature. His works have been performed in Chile, Latin America, North America, Europe and Asia. Many have won awards and received critical praise. As to purpose and motivation, Lémann considered himself an eclectic with ties to no particular school and thus free from stylistic bias. He used no preconceived techniques, neither in the details nor in the final form. He gave special emphasis to expression, which he strongly underlined through rhythmic vibrance and instrumental color. Also fundamental to his music were sense, emotion, and coherence of the whole. Depending on his frame of mind, he was equally at home with instrumental, chamber, or orchestral music. This wealth of devices he brought to bear on the challenge posed by each new work.

His innate talent for the plastic and visual arts also made him a serious amateur photographer. He was a long-time member of the Photo and Cinema Club of Chile and sat in several photo juries. Evidence of his skill as a photographer is easily found in his large portfolio, most notably his Chilean composer portrait series, which now illustrate leading Chilean music publications. Originals are on display at the Music Section of the National Library in Santiago. Carlos Botto Tomás Lefever

Compositores Eduardo Mubarak Miguel Letelier Roberto Escobar Jorge Urrutia Federico Heinlein Tomás Lefever Carlos Botto Alfonso Leng Domingo Santa Cruz
J. Lémann at the opening of the exhibition of his portraits of Chilean composers, 1968. Shown, the portraits of Tomás Lefever, Roberto Escobar, Jorge Urrutia, Federico Heinlein, Alfonso Leng, Carlos Botto, Eduardo Mubarak, Miguel Letelier and Domingo Santa Cruz.

His distinguished career as composer, performer and educator; his significant contribution to the growth and development of Chilean music, and his tireless work on behalf of the teaching profession, the rights of musicians and Chilean culture at large earned Juan Lémann many awards and citations and the recognition of the artistic and intellectual community, which regarded him as a remarkable artist, teacher, and guiding light of generations of Chilean composers. His kindness, integrity, affability, generosity, vast learning and unique sense of humour earned him the admiration, respect, and affection of all those who knew him.

Maestro Juan Lémann passed away in 1998 aged 69. He had been working simultaneously on four different pieces, including an orchestral score commissioned by the Chilean Author’s Rights Society. In his later years he continued to play his beloved piano with delight and enthusiasm, especially when surrounded by his loving family and wide circle of friends. He is survived by his wife, two daughters and four granddaughters.

The Autographs and holographs of his works, as well as microfilm copies of his music professionals, are in the Music Archive of the National Library of Chile, Santiago. These copies are professionals in the Music Archive of the Music Department of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Chile. The vast majority of his works are recorded on CD and some of them they were earlier in vinyl discs 33 1 / 3 rpm ​​and cassette. These and other recordings are also found in the National Library and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Chile.