Pierre BoulezComposer and conductor. Born 26 March 1925. Died 5 January 2016
Pierre Boulez Biography (BBC)
An industrialist's son, Boulez was born in Montbrison, near Lyons, in 1925. At 17 he went to Paris to pursue his musical ambitions, studying with Olivier Messiaen and René Leibowitz. The former opened his mind to rhythmic irregularity, to sonic dazzle, and to Asian and African cultures. From the latter, Schoenberg's chief apostle in Paris, he gained the passionate conviction that the future lay with serialism.
In 1945 he was taken on as music director of the theatre company run by Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud. His first acknowledged compositions date from the same year, introducing a voice in perpetual turmoil, influenced partly by the compressed rage and savagery he found in his favourite poets, Antonin Artaud and Rene Char. A Char sequence, Le marteau sans maitre (1952-54), crowned this period. At once explosive and calm, immediate and inscrutable, it made him the intellectual leader of a Europe-wide movement, a position he maintained through frequent articles, regular teaching at the Darmstadt summer school from 1955 to 1967, and, increasingly, conducting.
He became a conductor as head of the Domaine Musical, a Parisian concert series he founded in 1954, and whose innovative mixed programming (new music and 20th-century classics in the company of music from up to 500 years earlier) he took with him when he worked in the late 1950s with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and German radio orchestras. Finding it harder to satisfy himself creatively, he abandoned compositions or kept them as 'work in progress' (for example, the Third Piano Sonata and Pli selon pli for soprano and orchestra). Meanwhile, his conducting career took off. He gave his first concert with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 1961, conducted Berg's Wozzeck at the Paris Opera in 1963, and made his British orchestral debut in 1964, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The combination of immense gifts with a vision for the musical future was irresistible, and he was appointed concurrently Principal Conductor of the BBC SO (1971-74) and Music Director of the New York Philharmonic (1971-77). He broadened his repertoire rapidly, but stayed committed to innovation. At the end of his New York stint he spent time founding and developing the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/ Musique (IRCAM) in Paris. He drastically scaled down his conducting and began learning the new language of computer music, which he displayed spectacularly in Répons (1980-84).
In the early 1990s he began to increase his conducting commitments again, and to re-record much of the repertoire closest to him (Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern, Ravel, Mahler). But he has also gone on composing, if slowly, his most recent works including further instalments of his Notations, in which he reconsiders for large orchestra, lavishly and gorgeously, some vivid ideas he set down as piano pieces when he was 20.
Profile © Paul Griffiths
Pierre Boulez Biography (Wikipedia)
Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez CBE (26 March 1925 – 5 January 2016) was a French composer, conductor, writer and creator of musical institutions. He was one of the dominant figures of the post-war classical music world.
Born in Montbrison in the Loire department of France, the son of an engineer, Boulez studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with Olivier Messiaen, and privately with Andrée Vaurabourg and René Leibowitz. He began his professional career in the late 1940s as music director of the Renaud-Barrault theatre company in Paris. As a young composer in the 1950s he quickly became a leading figure in avant-garde music, playing an important role in the development of integral serialism and controlled chance music. From the 1970s onwards he pioneered the electronic transformation of instrumental music in real time. His tendency to revise earlier compositions meant that his body of completed works was relatively small, but it included pieces regarded by many as landmarks of twentieth-century music, such as Le Marteau sans maître, Pli selon pli and Répons. His uncompromising commitment to modernism and the trenchant, polemical tone in which he expressed his views on music led some to criticise him as a dogmatist.
- Claire Booth: is the scherzo from Bruckner's 8th Symphony in 3/4 or 6/8?https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p06429jj.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p06429jj.jpg2018-04-12T09:24:00.000ZIn this recording the three against two is effortlessly conducted by Boulez.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p06426xh
Claire Booth: is the scherzo from Bruckner's 8th Symphony in 3/4 or 6/8?
- Boulez: Le marteau sans maîtrehttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03fw5ps.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03fw5ps.jpg2018-02-10T12:40:00.000ZBuilding a Library surveys recordings of Boulez's seminal work Le marteau sans maître.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p05xqshq
Boulez: Le marteau sans maître
- Matthias Pintscher on Pierre Boulezhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p047v2nw.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p047v2nw.jpg2016-09-14T13:36:49.000ZConductor Matthias Pintscher on performing in a Pierre Boulez tribute concert at the 2016 Edinburgh International Festivalhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p047ts2d
Matthias Pintscher on Pierre Boulez
- "He was a quite exceptional being"https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03dq2w8.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03dq2w8.jpg2016-01-08T10:08:00.000ZComposer George Benjamin recalls working with Pierre Boulezhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03dwt6p
"He was a quite exceptional being"
- "...he just looked at me and he said, 'learning conducting is about learning how to do less'..."https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03dr6zg.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03dr6zg.jpg2016-01-06T19:26:00.000ZFergus Macleod, Charles Mackerras Fellow at English National Opera, describes studying with Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy in 2009 and 2011https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03dr70m
"...he just looked at me and he said, 'learning conducting is about learning how to do less'..."
- "A great composer, an astonishing conductor and a really funny, charming, surprising man"https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03dr4vq.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p03dr4vq.jpg2016-01-06T19:06:00.000ZSir Simon Rattle discuss his memories, thoughts and admiration for Pierre Boulezhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03dr4zj
"A great composer, an astonishing conductor and a really funny, charming, surprising man"
- "...he would fire off a volley of notes with one imperious gesture."https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mdpwm.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mdpwm.jpg2016-01-06T18:16:00.000ZRadio 3 presenter and music critic, Ivan Hewett describes watching Pierre Boulez conducthttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03dr1sr
"...he would fire off a volley of notes with one imperious gesture."
- "...he felt with his head and thought with his heart..."https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mdy93.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p02mdy93.jpg2016-01-06T17:55:00.000ZSarah Walker reads a statement from Daniel Barenboim in tribute to Pierre Boulezhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p03dr09k
"...he felt with his head and thought with his heart..."
Pierre Boulez Tracks
Past BBC Events
Proms 2015: Proms Extra
Proms 2008: Prom 40
Proms 2004: Prom 65
Proms 2002: Prom 33
Proms 2001: Prom 51
Latest Pierre Boulez News
Performances & Interviews from Similar Artists
How to make the cor anglais sing
How to hear colour in music
The colourful sonic world of a 20th Century icon
Schoenberg: Seht, die Sonne from 'Gurrelieder' (excerpt) (2017)
Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time
Watch: Schoenberg's explosive Verklärte Nacht
The Listening Service Extra 12 of 12 - Schoenberg’s Compositional Vision (ONLINE EXCLUSIVE)
The Listening Service Extra 11 of 12 - Twelve-tone music and its reception