Not every musician can deal with the music of French avant-garde composer Olivier Messiaen very easily. After all, it isn't every composer that bases one entire set of solo piano pieces on the songs of birds, or creates as intense and as difficult a composition to play as the Quartet for the End of Time. Michel Béroff has established a reputation as one of the premier interpreters of this composer's music, but is also known for superior performances of composers such as Beethoven, Brahms, Bartók, Prokofiev, Mozart, Debussy, Mussorgsky, Stravinsky, Schumann, and Schubert.
He undertook his studies beginning with the conservatory in Nancy and later switched to the larger CNSM in Paris where he immediately stood out as one of the best pianists. He gave his first recital in Paris in 1966 for which he won the first prize in the Olivier Messiaen International Piano Competition. Since then his career has taken him all over the world. He has performed as a piano soloist under the baton of most of the great conductors including Daniel Barenboim, Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Seiji Ozawa, Andre Previn, and many others. He collaborates with many other performers in the context of recitals or chamber music, including Pierre Amoyal, Jean-Philippe Collard, Augustin Dumay, Barbara Hendricks, and Lynn Harrell. He has also conducted detailed studies of the theories of conducting as well as the left-handed piano repertoire. Southpaws everywhere can delight in his recording of the Ravel Concerto for the left hand, done with the London Symphony Orchestra and Claudio Abbado for Deutsche Grammophon. The former interest led to him beginning another career as an orchestra conductor, which continues to be overshadowed by his busy schedule as a pianist. He has however established himself as an educator in the conducting field. He returned to his student haunts at CNSM in 1989 to teach conducting, and has also taught the fine art of baton waving at Freiburg's Music University (Musikhochschule) since 1994.
In 1996 he toured Japan extensively, performing the works of Debussy and recording these compositions for the Japanese Denon label. The resulting five albums won an equal number of Grand Prix du Disques awards. During this tour he also worked with the NHK Symphony and Shinsei Japan Philharmonic. Received with much enthusiasm in Japan, he returned later the same year for recitals and the recording of Debussy's Le bal masqué with Seiji Ozawa and Wolfgang Holzmair for Philips Classics. He then undertook a period of concentration on the works of Stravinsky, presenting an orchestral and recital project with the Residentie Orchestra of the Hague. In 2000 he toured England and Spain with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur.
The Béroff discography is immense. His EMI output includes the complete works for piano and orchestra by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Liszt, as well as other works by Messiaen, Schumann, Brahms, and Debussy.