Boulez, Pierre

views updated May 17 2018

Pierre Boulez

Conductor, composer

Professional Career

Cleveland and Los Angeles Orchestras

A Man of Many Honors

Selected discography

Selected compositions


Modernist conductor and composer Pierre Boulez jolted the world of classical music into the twentieth century with his sophisticated compositions and his presentations of both early and modern classics. For over 50 years, Boulez founded, co-conducted, and directed world-class musical organizations on two continents. Boulez is a recipient of many honors, including Commander of the British Empire, and a member of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He holds a fistful of honorary doctorate degrees along with a Nobel Prize for Music. The recipient of 19 Grammy Awards and a host of other honors, Boulez distinguished himself as the composer of over two dozen major works of modern music. He possessed the poise and confidence prerequisite to the creation of new artistic genres.

A student of Messiaen and Leiowitz, and an admirer of Mondrian and Klee, Boulez flashed his modernist approach and affirmed his rejection of all things past. He personally likened his musical styles to a severed umbilical chord, yet for his modernist character Boulez remained always a slave to theory. Nothing in his style discounted structure. He is in fact widely acknowledged for the extensive organization displayed in the rhythms, dynamics, and other aspects of his music, which is further characterized by his use of clusters and extremes of register. His Pli selon Pli and Structures clearly display those particular characteristics of Boulez. At times controversial and, by his own admission, not always easy to listen to, Boulez established for himself a position of respect and authority at major concert halls and opera houses worldwide. He further earned recognition as the author of five French publications on the subject of contemporary music.

Pierre Boulez was born on March 26, 1925 in Montbrison in France, the son of Léon Boulez and Marcelle Calabre. In 1942, Boulez moved to Paris, where he enrolled at the Paris Conservatory (Conservatoire) in 1944. He studied under Olivier Messiaen, graduated in 1945, and went on to study privately with Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger. In 1946, Boulez studied classic 12-tone technique under the guidance of René Leibowitz. As a student and afterward, Boulez assigned a great deal of admiration to modern artists of many disciplines, including Mondrian, Klee, Becket, and Joyce. Musically his favorites included Messiaen, Debussy, and Stravinsky; and Boulez freely acknowledged their influence upon art his art.

Professional Career

In 1946 at age 21, Boulez assumed a position as the music director of the Jean-Louis Barrault Theater Company. He remained in that capacity for ten years, during

For the Record

Born on March 26, 1925 in Montbrison, France; son of Léon Boulez and Marcelle Calabre; Education: Paris Conservatoire; studied under Messiaen, Vaurabourg-Honegger, and Leibowitz.

Director of Music at Jean-Louis Barrault Theatre Company, 1948; founded Concert Marigny (later the Domaine Musicale of Paris), 1953; principal guest conductor, Cleveland Orchestra; principal conductor, BBC Symphony Orchestra, 1971-75; music director New York Philharmonic, 1971-77; director, IRCAM, 1975-91; honorary director, IRCAM, 1992; professor, Collège de France, 1976; vice-president, Opéra Bastille, 1985-91; principal guest conductor, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1995.

Awards: Praemium Imperiale, Japan Art Association, 1989; Opera Production of the Year, International Classical Music Awards, London, 1992; Record Academy Award, 1994; Cannes Classical Award, 1995; Artist of the Year, Gramophone Magazine, 1995; Preis der Deut-schen Schallplattenkritik, 1995; Commander of the British Empire, Knight of the Order of Merit; Federal Republic of Germany; Grammy Awards: Best Opera Recording, for Wozzeck, 1967; for Lulu, 1980; for Der Ring des Nibe-lungen, 1982; Best Classical Performance, Orchestra, conductors award, for Debussy, 1968; for Debussy Volume 2, 1969; for Le Sacre du Printemps, 1970; for Concerto for Orchestra, 1973; for Daphnis et Chloé, 1975; for The Wooden Prince, 1993; for Concerto for Orchestra, 1994, for Debussy, 1995; for Symphonie Fantastique, 1997; Classical Album of the Year, for Wozzeck, 1967; for Concerto for Orchestra, 1973; for Lulu, 1980; for The Wooden Prince, 1993; for Concerto for Orchestra, 1994; for Debussy, 1995; for Best Small Ensemble Performance, for Explosante-Fixe, 1996; Polar Prize (Nobel Prize of Music), shared with Joni Mitchell, 1996.

Addresses: Office IRCAM, 1 Place Igor Stravinsky, 75004 Paris, France.

which time he aided in the founding of the Concerts Marigny in 1953, along with Barrault and Madeleine Renaud Barrault. Concerts Marigny became renowned for its modern repertoire and presentations. Marigny evolved over time to be called the Domaine Musical of Paris, a leading presenterof French avant-garde music. Boulez came to international prominence in 1955 with a composition called Le Marteau sans Maître. The chamber work, which Boulez revised in 1957 received praise from critics and musicians worldwide. Stravinsky lauded the work as a superlative example of modern composition.

In time Boulez came to appreciate the great artistic power of the orchestral conductor, at which point his career soared rapidly. He earned praise for his credible interpretations of the works of the Second Viennese School, including such composers as Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. He earned further acclaim for his operatic productions, which encompassed works by Wagner, Mahler, Debussy, Ravel, Bartόk, and Stravinsky. Boulez was invited in 1959 by Southwest German Radio to move to Baden-Baden where he conducted the Südwestfunk throughout the 1960s. During that decade his stature as a conductor took him beyond the confines of Germany and throughout Europe, where he conducted orchestras in London, Amsterdam, and Rome. He led orchestral festivals throughout Germany and taught at both Darmstadt and Basel. From 1962-63 he spent time as a visiting professor at Harvard University. He accepted a position as a professor at the Collège de France in 1976.

Cleveland and Los Angeles Orchestras

In March of 1965, Boulez spent time in Cleveland at the invitation of the Cleveland Orchestras renowned conductor, George Szell. There, Boulez led the Cleveland Orchestra in the performance of his own composition, Figure-Double-Prisme, for the first time in the United States. Boulezs relationship with the Cleveland Orchestra, as with many world class groups, endured for decades. Together he and the Cleveland Orchestra taped award winning recordings, most notable among them were the works of Stravinsky, Debussy, and Messiaen. Heserved with the orchestra forfive years as a guest conductor, and stepped into a position as the fist principal guest conductor in 1970 following the death of Szell. He remained as a musical advisor to the group during the 1971-72 orchestra season. From 1967-72 Boulez was credited with performing over 100 works with the Cleveland Orchestra.

Boulez fostered similar affiliations with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He first conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in January of 1969, performing Webern, Berg, and Bartόk. In 1970 at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) he collaborateci with that same orchestra in a Contempo concert, which they repeated later at the Ojai Festival. He worked with the group again on numerous occasions, including a performance of Carters Concerto in February of 1975, and again at UCLA and at the Ojai Festival in 1984. His collaborations with that orchestra spanned nearly two decades, from Los Angeles, to Paris, to Salzburg, Germany. They were reunited in March and October of 1987 and again in 1992-94, and 1996. Their many memorable performances included pieces by Bartók, Berg, Mahler, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, and Webern. Boulez conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in productions of his own works as well, including the U.S. premiere of Livre Pour Cordes at Festival Boulez at UCLA in May of 1989.

Between 1971-75, Boulez served as the principal conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra. For much of the 1970s, Boulez stepped in as the musical director of the New York Philharmonic, behind the eminent Leonard Bernstein. The early 1970s marked a self-imposed exile on the part of Boulez from his homeland of France. His extended absence, in protest for greater government sponsorship of the arts, ended in 1974, at which time he accepted a commission by then President Georges Pompidou to establish a musical research institute in Paris. The center, which was originally designated the Center Georges Pompidou, came to be called the Institute de Recherches et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). In 1975, Boulez took over the directorship of IRCAM, and under its auspices formed the Ensemble InterContemporain. As conductor and president of the ensemble, he brought that group to Los Angeles in 1976 where they performed Boulezs own composition, Rèpons, at the Philharmonic New Music Group series and at UCLA. Boulez took the group to the United States on other occasions in 1986, 1991, and in 1993. He remained in the directorship of IRCAM until early 1991 when he resigned from his active duties, but retained the title of honorary director of the institute.

A Man of Many Honors

The numerous affiliations throughout Boulezs career effected a barrage of award-winning performances and recordings over the years. He was first nominated for a Grammy award in 1966. He failed to win that year, although between 1967-97 he won an impressive 19 Grammys, including nine conductors awards for Best Orchestral Performance. Those award-winning recordings included his Debussy recordings with the (Cleveland) New Philharmonia in 1968 and 1969. Other Grammy awards bestowed on Boulez included six for Classical Album of the Year, for the opera Wozzeck in 1967, Concerto for Orchestra in 1973, Lulu in 1980, The Wooden Prince in 1993, Concerto for Orchestra in 1994, and Debussyin 1995. In 1996, Boulez and the Ensemble InterContemporain won the Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance for a rendition of Explosante-Fixe as performed on the album Boulez Conducts Boulez.

Boulez received further honors in the form of doctorate degrees from universities at Cambridge and Bale in 1980, from Los Angeles in 1984, Oxford in 1987, and Brussels in 1988. In 1989, he received the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Art Association. Boulez received a special honor in 1996 when King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden presented the Nobel Prize of Music (the Polar Prize) jointly to Boulez and folksinger Joni Mitchell.

During the late 1980s and through 1991, Boulez served as the vice-president of the Opéra Bastille. In 1989, he signed an exclusive recording contract with the Deutsche Grammophon label, and in 1991 he returned to Canada after a prolonged absence of 20 years. That year he served as the guest artistic director of the Scotia Festival. In 1992 Boulez took the Welsh National Opera on a European tour performing Pellisande et Mélisande. That same year at the Salzburg Festival he performed as a guest conductor with the Ensemble InterContemporain, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1995, after eight residencies with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, he was honored by an appointment as the principal guest conductor of that organization. Boulez was only the third conductoreverto receive that distinction. His most memorable presentations with the Chicago Symphony included numerous performances of the works of Bartok.

From 1976-80, Boulez spent five seasons with the with the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra performing Wagners operatic trilogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen. He and the orchestra recorded that work on the Philips label in 1981. Additionally, Boulez co-founded Citè de la Musique, which opened in Paris in 1995. He is the respected author of five published authoritative papers and essays on new music.

Selected discography

Berg: Wozzeck (with the Paris National Opera) Columbia, 1966.

(with the New Philharmonia Orchestra)Boulez Conducts Debussy, Columbia, 1967.

(with the New Philharmonia Orchestra) Boulez Conducts Debussy, Volume 2: Images pour Orchestre, Columbia, 1968.

(with the Cleveland Orchestra) Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps, Columbia, 1969.

(with the New York Philharmonic) Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra, Columbia, 1972.

(with the New York Philharmonic) Ravel: Daphnis et Chloé, Columbia, 1974.

Berg: Lulu (Complete) (with Orchestre de lOpéra de Paris), Deutsche Grammophon, 1979.

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (with Bayreuth Festival Orchestra), Philips, 1981.

(with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) The Wooden Prince and Cantata Profana, Deutsche Grammphon, 1992.

(with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra: 4 Orchestral Pieces, Op. 12, Deutsche Garmmophon, 1993.

Boulez Conducts Boulez (with the Ensemble InterContem-porain; includes Explosante-Fixe), Deutsche Grammophon, 1995.

(with the Cleveland Orchestra) Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, Deutsche Grammophon, 1997.

(with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) Stravinsky: The Firebird.

(with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) Schoenberg: Pel-leas and Mélisande

Selected compositions

Domaines, Harmonía.

Improvisations sur Mallarmé I & II for Soprano & Instrumental Ensemble, Hungaroton.

Multiples for Orchestra, Sony Classical.

Notations 1-4 for Orchestra, Erato.

Sonatine for Flute & Piano, Erato.



ONeil, Thomas, The Grammys: The Ultimate Unofficial Guide to Musics Hightest Honor, Perigree, 1999.


American Record Guide, July-August 1995.

Atlantic Monthly, September 1995.

Nation, November 6, 1995.

New Statesman, February 12, 1999.


Pierre Boulez, Chicago Symphany Orchestra, (May 20, 1999).

Pierre Boulez, Emory University 20th Century Music, http:/ (May 20, 1999).

Pierre Boulez, http// (May 20, 1999).

Pierre Boulez - Bio, (May 20, 1999). (March 19, 1999).

Pierre Boulez Selected Discography, (May 20, 1999).

Gloria Cooksey

Boulez, Pierre

views updated May 11 2018


Born: Montbrison, France, 26 March 1925

Genre: Classical

Best-selling album since 1990: Pierre Boulez Edition: Stravinsky, Pétrouchka/Le Sacre du printemps Pierre Boulez is arguably one of the twentieth century's most innovative composers. A conductor, author, and lecturer of international renown, he helped reshape the course of music after World War II.

Early Innovations and Conductor by Accident

Coming of age during the Nazi occupation of his native France, Boulez initially studied mathematics. His first important compositions date from the mid-1940s, when he emerged from compositional studies at the Paris Conservatory with French composer and mystic Olivier Messiaen and René Lebowitz, who had been a pupil of Schoenberg and Webern. Boulez's Second Piano Sonata (1947-8) marked his own radical and mature adaptation of the atonal twelve-tone method pioneered by Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. Boulez would go on to apply serial principles to rhythm, register, dynamics, and all other aspects of music in his Structures I for two pianos (195152), fully developing that style in two large-scale works with strong literary references: Le marteau sans maître ("The hammer without a master") (1953-5), after the poems of surrealist René Char, and Pli selon pli ("Fold upon fold") (1957-62), set to poems of Mallarmé.

Attending a rehearsal prior to a performance of Marteau in the late 1950s, Boulez noticed that the conductor and musicians were completely lost trying to make sense of the music, and so Boulez stepped in. Boulez's subsequent conducting was initially devoted to performing new works that otherwise would not have been heard, but over time his repertoire expanded to include music of the recent past as well. Boulez was chosen by George Szell in 1969 to become the Cleveland Orchestra's principal guest conductor so that Szell's audiences would be able to hear large doses of twentieth-century music that Szell himself felt unable to present convincingly. Boulez's Cleveland Orchestra recording of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring had a transparency and power that forever changed the way the public thought about the work. In 1971, Boulez went on to simultaneously accept the music directorships of London's BBC Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. The New York years were particularly stormy ones, with Boulez constantly taxing the ears, minds, and endurance of post-Bernstein audiences with experimental and unpopular scores and with what more than one critic labeled his "French arrogance."

After a stunning success with Wagner's Parsifal at the composer's own theater in Bayreuth (in Germany), Boulez was invited by Wagner's grandson to conduct his first Der Ring des Nibelungen (a cycle of Wagner operas) for the Ring centennial in 1976. A controversial contemporary staging of the work by Patrice Chéreau caused an uproar among Wagnerian traditionalists.

New Materials, New Music

In 1974, French president George Pompidou was courting Boulez to come back to the land he had left in self-imposed exile because of what Boulez considered to be government limitations on artistic freedom. Boulez insisted that he would return only if the conditions could be set up for researching the most advanced technology available that could be applied to the composition of new music. To that end Boulez founded the Paris-based IRCAMThe Institute for Research of Coordination between Acoustics and Musicin 1976. IRCAM's goal has been to enlarge the domain of materials used for music, a goal that has been embraced by musicians of all genres, including rock artists such as Frank Zappa.

According to Boulez a crisis had emerged in the late twentieth century because composers' imaginations had gone beyond the tools that were then available. To illustrate his point, he noted how architecture had been completely transformed when the new materials of concrete, glass, and steel replaced stone and wood as building materials.

A Greek Temple or a Gothic Cathedral, Boulez argued, could no more be built with steel and concrete than a skyscraper could be built with marble or sandstone. Likewise, composers had been using the same acoustic instruments for centuries, and the possibilities of music making that existed with them had been exhausted. Electronic media, still in its infancy, opened up a new frontier for an entirely new type of music where new tuning systems and new sounds not achievable through traditional means would be possible.

Boulez has written a handful of works incorporating the cutting-edge technology that had been developed at IRCAM, excerpts from one of whichRépons (Responses) (19811988)was the centerpiece of an extraordinary and groundbreaking series of concerts when Boulez's L'Ensemble InterContemporain toured the United States in 1986. "The sound," as Boulez himself described it at the time, "was everywhere yet nowhere." Entire ripples of sound made up of digital transformations of conventional instrumental timbres made in real time engulfed the listener from every direction. Unlike early electronic music pieces, which had to be created layer by layer on tape, the transformations for Répons the recording of which won a Grammy Award in1999 and pushed the limits of recording technologywere made in real time. This same effect is employed for a large-scale stage work that Boulez was working on as the new millennium began.

Since the 1990s Boulez has been more visible as a conductor than as a composer. In addition to seminal concerts and recordings with the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics, in 1995 Boulez became the principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra following years of sold-out Boulez-led concerts and a string of landmark Grammy Awardwinning recordings Boulez made with that ensemble (Boulez has won twenty-three Grammy Awards since 1967). Ironically, these awards highlighted recordings of earlier twentieth-century masterpieces by other composers. In fact, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's music director, Daniel Barenboim, has actually conducted more of Boulez's music with the CSO than Boulez himself has.

Formerly a radical and outspoken enfant terrible who advocated that concert halls and opera houses be burnt to the ground as dead monuments to an irrelevant past, Boulez would paradoxically spend the twilight of his career primarily as an interpreter of that past. His provocative statementswhich in the spirit of Boulez's philosophical mentor Friedrich Nietzsche were intended metaphoricallycame back to haunt him in the weeks after September 11, 2001, when, while on tour at a music festival in Basle, Switzerland, the seventy-six-year-old Boulez was dragged out of his hotel bed in the middle of the night by police, handcuffed, and held for three hours as a terrorism suspect before a formal apology was made. Notoriously late for commission deadlines, including a decade-old CSO commission, and a composer who frequently returns to older works to revise them, Boulez admits that he has difficulty predicting the amount of time it will take him to enter into a work and, harder still, how long it will take to escape out of a new work once it has come into being: "To me, each of my compositions is like a labyrinth, and a labyrinth can go on forever."


Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger and Other Works (EMI, 1984); Boulez, Rituel/Éclat Multiples (Sony re-release, 1991); Debussy, Pelléas et Mélisande (Sony re-release,1991); Ravel, The Orchestral Works (Sony re-release, 1991); Varèse, Arcana/Ameriques/Ionization/Density 21.5/Offrandes/Integrales/Octandre (Sony re-release, 1991); Webern, Complete Works (Sony re-release, 1991); Bartók, The Wooden Prince/Cantana profana (Deutsche Grammophon, 1992); Stravinsky, Pétrouchka/Le Sacre du printemps (Deutsche Grammophon, 1992); Debussy, Images (Deutsche Grammophon, 1992); Schoenberg, Die Glückliche Hand/Variations for Orchestra/Verklärte Nacht (Deutsche Grammophon,1993); Schoenberg, Gurre-Leider/Four Songs (Sony re-release, 1993); Schoenberg, Pierrot lunaire/Lied der Waldtaube/Erwartung (Sony re-release, 1993); Stravinsky, The Firebird/Fireworks/Four Studies (Deutsche Grammophon, 1993); Boulez, Structures [I, II] (Wergo, 1993); Bartók, Concerto for Orchestra/Four Orchestral Pieces (Deutsche Grammophon, 1994); Boulez Conducts Ligeti (Deutsche Grammophon, 1994); Ravel, Boléro/Ma mère l'oye/Miroirs (Deutsche Grammophon, 1994); Debussy, Orchestral Works (Sony re-re-release, 1995); Bartók, Divertimento/Dance Suite (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995); Berg, Altenberg Lieder/Early Songs (Sony re-release, 1995); Berg, Chamber Concerto/Three Orchestral Pieces/Violin Concerto (Sony re-release, 1995); Boulez, Pli selon pli/Livre pour cordes (Sony re-release, 1995); Carter, A Symphony of Three Orchestras/ Varèse, Deserts/Ecuatorial/Hyperprism (Sony re-release, 1995); Messiaen, Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum/Couleurs de la cité céleste (Sony re-release, 1995); Messiaen, Chronochromie/ La Ville d'en haut (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995); Stravinsky, Pétrouchka/Le Sacre du printemps (Sony re-release, 1995); Boulez, Schoenberg, Berio, Carter, Kurtàg, Xenakis (Erato, 1995); Boulez, Le visage nuptial/Dérive I/cummings ist der Dichter (Erato re-release, 1995); Debussy, La Mer/Nocturnes (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995); Ravel, Daphnis et Chloé/La valse (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995); Mahler, Symphony No. 6 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1995); Boulez, Piano Sonata No. 2 (Deutsche Grammophon re-release, 1995); Boulez Conducts Boulez . . . . explosante-fixe . . . Notations IXII/Structures II (Deutsche Grammophon, 1996); Bartók, The Miraculous Mandarin/Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta (Deutsche Grammophon, 1996); Birtwistle, Secret Theatre/Tragoedia (Deutsche Grammophon, 1996); Mahler, Symphony No. 7 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1996); Schoenberg, Moses und Aron (Deutsche Grammophon, 1996); Berg, Wozzeck (Sony re-release, 1997); Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique/Tristia (Deutsche Grammophon, 1997); Mahler, Symphony No. 5 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1997); Messiaen, Poémes pour Mi/Sept Haikai/La Réveil des oiseaux (Deutsche Grammophon, 1997); Bartók, Bluebeard's Castle (Deutsche Grammophon, 1998); Mahler, Symphony No. 9 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1998); Schoenberg, Pierrot lunaire/Herzgewächse/Ode to Napoleon (Deutsche Grammophon, 1998); Bartók, Violin Concerto No. 2/Rhapsodies (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999); Boulez, Répons/Dialogue de l'ombre double (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999); Ravel, The Piano Concertos (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999); Mahler, Symphony No. 1 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999); Scriabin, Poeme de l'extase/Piano Concerto/Promethée (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999); R. Strauss, Also sprach Zarathustra/Mahler, Totenfeier (Deutsche Grammophon, 1999); Boulez, Orchestral Works and Chamber Music (Col Legno, 2000); Boulez, Trois sonates pour piano (Disques Montaigne, 2000); Boulez, Sur Incises/Messagesquisse/Anthèmes 2 (Deutsche Grammophon, 2000); Bruckner, Symphony No. 8 (Deutsche Grammophon, 2000); Complete Webern (Deutsche Grammophon, 2000); Mahler, Symphony No. 4 (Deutsche Grammophon, 2000); Messiaen, 80th Birthday Concert (Disques Montaigne, 2000); Stravinsky, Symphony of Psalms/Symphony in Three Movements (Deutsche Grammophon, 2000); Boulez, Domaines (Harmonia Mundi, 2001); Berg, Lulu (Deutsche Grammophon re-release, 2001); Boulez Conducts Varèse (Deutsche Grammophon, 2001); Boulez Conducts Stravinsky (Deutsche Grammophon, 2001); Mahler, Das Lied von der Erde (Deutsche Grammophon, 2001); Schoenberg, Piano Concerto (Deutsche Grammophon, 2001); Wagner, Der Ring des Nibelungen (Philips re-release, 2001); Boulez, Pli selon pli (Deutsche Grammophon, 2002); Mahler, Symphony No. 3 (Deutsche Grammophon, 2003).


J. Peyser, Boulez: Composer, Conductor, Enigma (New York, 1976); P. Boulez, Boulez on Music Today (London, 1979); P. Griffiths, Boulez (London, 1985); H. Barth, Wagner: A Documentary Study (Preface by Pierre Boulez) (London, 1986); P. F. Stacey, Boulez and the Modern Concept (Lincoln, NE, 1987); P. Boulez, Orientations: Collected Writings (Cambridge, MA, 1990); L. Koblyakov, Pierre Boulez: A World of Harmony (London, 1990); P. Boulez, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship (London, 1991); J. J. Nattiez and R. Samuels, The Boulez-Cage Correspondence (Cambridge, MA, 1993); G. Born, Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde (Berkeley, CA, 1995); J. Vermeil, Conversations with Boulez: Thoughts on Conducting (Portland, 1996); J. Peyser, To Boulez and Beyond: Music in Europe Since the Rite of Spring (New York, 1999); R. Di Pieto, Dialogues with Boulez (Lanham, MD, 2001).


dennis polkow

Boulez, Pierre

views updated May 11 2018

Boulez, Pierre

Boulez, Pierre , greatly significant French composer and conductor; b. Montbrison, March 26, 1925. He received training in piano, and pursued his secondary studies in Montbrison and St.-Etienne. After studying advanced mathematics in Lyons (1941), he went to Paris in 1942. In 1944 he entered the harmony class of Messiaen at the Cons. In 1946 he became music director of the Renaud-Barrault theater company. Boulez conducted concerts at the Petit-Marigny, which became the “Domaine Musical” concerts in 1955. He led these influential concerts of contemporary music until 1967. From 1955 to 1960 he gave summer courses in musical analysis in Darmstadt. In 1959 he began a close association with the Südwestfunk in Baden-Baden, where he programmed much contemporary music. From 1960 to 1962 he gave courses in musical analysis and composition in Basel, and then was a visiting prof, at Harvard Univ. in 1962–63. In 1965 he appeared as a guest conductor at the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles. That same year, he gave a conducting course in Basel. In 1966 Boulez made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival conducting Parsifal, and then took the company to Japan for performances of Tristan una Isolde. From 1967 he appeared as a guest conductor with the Cleveland Orch., serving as its principal guest conductor from 1969 to 1971. He conducted Pelléas et Mélisande at London’s Covent Garden in 1969. From 1971 to 1975 Boulez served as chief conductor of the BBC Sym. Orch. in London, and from 1971 to 1977 as music director of the N.Y. Phil. His tenure in N.Y. proved controversial in some quarters for his uncompromising advocacy of 20th century music. He led the orch. on tours of Japan in 1974 and of Europe in 1975. In 1971 Boulez was asked by the French President Pompidou to organize the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique /Musique (IR-C AM) in Paris, which under his guidance became one of the world’s leading centers for experimental music. In 1976 he founded and became president of the Ensemble Inter/Contemporain (EIC) in Paris, with which he subsequently conducted numerous performances of contemporary music. That same year, he conducted the centenary Ring cycle at the Bayreuth Festival, which he conducted again each summer from 1977 to 1980. Boulez was named a prof, at the Collège de France by decree of the French President in 1976. On Feb. 24, 1979, he conducted the first performance of the complete version of Berg’s Lulu at the Paris Opéra. He made a major tour of the U.S. with the Ensemble Inter-Contemporain in 1986, which he subsequently took to Australia and New Zealand in 1988, Russia in 1990, and Canada in 1991. In 1992 he appeared as both a conductor and composer at the Salzburg Festival. On Dec. 7, 1992, he conducted Debussy’s La Mer as part of the 150thanniversary concert of the N.Y. Phil., which was televised live to the nation by PBS. He conducted the Ensemble Inter/Contemporain on another tour of the U.S. in 1993, at the Salzburg Festival and in Berlin in 1994, and in South America in 1996. Boulez was appointed principal guest conductor of the Chicago Sym. Orch. in 1995. He also held the Carnegie Hall Composer’s Chair from 1999 to 2003.

As a composer, Boulez’s influence on the course of art music in the second half of the 20th century has been especially significant via his espousal of avant-garde techniques. His works, challenging to his auditors as well as his performers, are often difficult to describe, even in the familiar terms of dissonant counterpoint, free serialism, or indeterminism. As a conductor, he has demonstrated an acute analytical approach to not only contemporary scores but also to standard works of the past. His undemonstrative podium manner lends itself well to the clarity and lucidity he brings to his interpretations.

Among Boulez’s many honors are the Praemium Imperiale Prize of Japan (1989), Grammy Awards (3 in 1994, 2 in 1995, and 2 in 1996), the Edison and Gramophone awards (1995), and the Berlin Kunstpreis and Polar Prize of Sweden (1996).


Penser la musique aujourd’hui (1963); Relevés d’apprenti (1966; Eng. tr., 1991, Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship).


DRAMATIC: Le Soleil des Eaux, music for a radio play for Voice and Orch. (1948; rev. as a cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Bass, and Chamber Orch., 1948; withdrawn; rev. for Soprano, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch., 1958; rev. for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch., 1965); L’Orestie, incidental music (1948); Symphonie Mécanique, film music for Tape (1955); Le Crépuscule de Yang Kouï-Fe, incidental music for radio (1967); Ainsi parla Zarathoustra, incidental music (1974). orch.:Polyphonie X for 18 Solo Instruments (Donaueschingen, Oct. 6, 1951); Doubles (1957–58; Paris, March 16, 1958; expanded as Figures-Doubles-Prismes, 1963 and 1968); Poésie pour pouvoir for 2 Orchs. and Tape (Donaueschingen, Oct. 19, 1958, composer and H. Rosbaud conducting); Tombeau (1959–62); Domaines for Clarinet and 21 Instruments (1961–68; Brussels, Dec. 20, 1968, composer conducting; also for Solo Clarinet, 1961); Éclat for 15 Instruments (Los Angeles, March 26, 1965; expanded as Éclats/Multiples for 27 Instruments, 1966–in progress); Livre pour Cordes (1968; based on Livre pour quatuor for String Quartet, 1948^9); ...explosante-fixe...(1971; also for 2 Instruments and Electronics, 1972, and for Flute and Electronics, 1989); Memoriales (1973–75); Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna (1974–75; London, April 2, 1975, composer conducting); Notations (Paris, June 18, 1980; based on 12 Notations for Piano, 1945); Répons for 24 Players, 6 Instrumental Soloists, Chamber Ensemble, Computers, and Live Electronics (Donaueschingen, Oct. 18, 1981); Initiale, fanfare for 7 Brass Instruments (1987); Dérive II for 11 Instruments (1988) and III, fanfare for Brass Instruments, for Solti’s 80th birthday (Chicago, Nov. 21, 1992, composer conducting); Notations VII (1997–98; Chicago, Jan. 14, 1999). chamber: Flute Sonatine (1946); Livre pour quatuor for String Quartet (1948–49; rev. 1989; also as Livre pour Cordes for Orch., 1968); Strophes for Flute (1957); Domaines for Clarinet (1961; also for Clarinet and 21 Instruments, 1961–68); Messag-esquisse for Solo Cello and 6 Cellos (1976); Pour le docteur Kalmus for Clarinet, Flute, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1977); Dérive I for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Vibraphone, and Piano (1984); Dialogue de l’ombre double for Clarinet and Electronics (1984); Memoriale (“...explosante fixe...” originel) for Flute and 8 Instruments (1985); Anthèmes for Violin and Electronics (1991); Sur Incises for 3 Pianos, 3 Percussionists, and 3 Harps (1994–98). piano: 22Notations (1945; utilized in Notations for Orch., 1980); 3 sonatas: No. 1 (1946), No. 2 (1946^8; Paris, April 29, 1950), and No. 3 (1955–57); Sonata for 2 Pianos (Paris, April 29, 1950); Structures I (1951–53) and II for 2 Pianos (1956–61). vocal:Le Visage nuptial for Soprano, Alto, 2 Ondes Mar-tenot, Piano, and Percussion (1946–47; rev. for Soprano, Alto, Women’s Chorus, and Orch., 1951–52, and for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Chorus, and Orch. 1985–89); Le Soleil des Eaux, cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Bass, and Chamber Orch. (1948; withdrawn; based on music for a radio play for Voice and Orch., 1948; rev. for Soprano, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch., 1958; rev. for Soprano, Chorus, and Orch., 1965); Le Marteau sans Maître for Alto, Alto Flute, Guitar, Vibraphone, Xylorimba, Percussion, and Viola (1953–55; rev. 1957); Improvisation sur Mallarmé for Soprano, Harp, Bells, Vibraphone, and Percussion (1957; also for Soprano and Orch., 1962), II for Soprano, Celesta, Harp, Piano, Bells, Vibraphone, and Percussion (1957), and III for Soprano and Orch. (1959; rev. 1983–84); Pli selon pli (Don, Improvisation sur Mallarmé I-III, Tombeau) for Soprano and Orch. (1957–90); Don for Soprano and Piano (1960; also for Soprano and Orch., 1962, rev. 1989–90); Tombeau for Soprano and Orch. (1959–60); cummings ist der dichter for 16 Solo Voices and 24 Instruments (1970; rev. 1986). tape:Études I, sur un son, II, sur sept songs (1951–52).


A. Goléa, Rencontres avec P. B. (Paris, 1958); J. Peyser, B., Composer, Conductor, Enigma (N.Y., 1976); R. Miller, Pli selon pli: P. B. and the “New Lyricism” (diss., Case Western Reserve Univ., 1978); P. Griffiths, B. (N.Y., 1979); D. Jameux, P. B.(Paris, 1984; Eng. tr., 1990); J. Hausler, éd., Festschrift P. B.(Vienna, 1985); T. Hirsbrunner, P. B. und sein Werk (Laaber, 1985); W. Glock, éd., P. B.: A Symposium (London, 1986); P. Stacey, B. and the Modern Concept (Lincoln, Nebr., 1987); L. Koblyakov, P. B.: A World of Harmony (Chur and N.Y., 1990); J.-J. Nattiez and F. Davoine, eds., P. B./John Cage: Correspondance et documents (Winterthur, 1990; Eng. tr., 1993); G. Born, Rational Music: IRCAM, B., and the Institutionalisation of the Avant-Garde (Berkeley, 1995); M. Breatnach, B. and Mallarmé: A Study in Poetic Influence (Aldershot, 1996).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Boulez, Pierre

views updated May 17 2018

Boulez, Pierre (b Montbrison, 1925). Fr. composer and conductor. Went to Paris Cons. in 1942, studying comp. with Messiaen 1944–5. Studied counterpoint with Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger (wife of Arthur Honegger) and 12-note technique with René Leibowitz. In 1946 became mus. dir. and cond. of Barrault-Renaud co. at Théâtre Marigny, Paris, travelling with them to N. and S. Amer. and European cities during next 10 years. In 1953, with Barrault's help, founded the Concerts Marigny, later re-named Domaine Musical when the venue was moved to the Odéon in 1959. In this series Boulez introduced to Paris audiences not only works by Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg, but mus. of his contemporaries. At this time, est. contacts with Maderna and Stockhausen and joined teaching staff at the Int. summer sch. for new mus., Darmstadt. Salzburg Fest. début 1960 (Cologne Radio SO). In early 1960s cond. engagements increased and dir. several major European orchs., incl. the Vienna PO at Salzburg, 1962. Cond. f. Fr. stage p. of Wozzeck, Paris 1963. In 1963 visiting prof. at Harvard Univ.; made Amer. conducting début with Cleveland Orch. 1964. In 1966 cond. Parsifal at Bayreuth and in same year severed connection with Paris life as a protest over a ministerial appointment. Guest cond. BBC SO in London 1964 and in USA in 1965 and on its Russ. tour in 1967. Gave up conductorship of Domaine Musical, 1967. Prin. guest cond., Cleveland Orch., 1969–70 and chief cond. of the BBC SO 1971–5 and NYPO 1971–7. His BBC period was notable for remarkable perfs. of 20th-cent. music, especially Schoenberg, Webern, and Debussy. Cond. centenary cycle of Ring at Bayreuth, 1976. From 1976 dir. Fr. Govt.'s research institute into techniques of modern comp. (IRCAM). Cond. first complete perf. of Lulu, Paris, 1979.

Boulez's importance and originality as an avant-garde composer were evident from the first. He came to prominence with the Sonatine for fl. and pf. and the pf. sonata No.1. The cantata Le visage nuptial, to poems by René Char, made use of choral speech, spoken glissandi, crying, and whispering. Boulez's orthodox use of serialism is found in Structures I for 2 pf. Le Marteau sans maître, to text by Char (f.p. Baden-Baden June 1955, cond. Rosbaud) made him a celebrity. His most ambitious work to date is Pli selon pli for sop. and orch. This 5-part portrait of Mallarmé developed from Improvisation sur Mallarmé. These are now flanked by 2 outer movements, Don and Tombeau, all 5 containing extracts from Mallarmé sung or declaimed in many ways. There are elements of indeterminacy in the 3 sections of the improvisations. The work has constantly been radically rev., in accordance with Boulez's view that a comp. is never finished.

Boulez experimented with musique concrète in early 1950s and combined it with elec. sounds in Poésie pour pouvoir (1958). His use of indeterminacy dates from about 1957 with the 3rd pf. sonata, the 5 movements of which can be played in any order except for the 3rd which must be central. Like Mahler and Richard Strauss, Boulez has pursued parallel careers as cond. and composer. Hon. CBE 1979. Prin. comps.:INCIDENTAL MUSIC: L'Orestie (Aeschylus/Obey) (1948); Le Crépuscule de Yang Kouī-Feī (Louise Fauré), for radio (1967); Ainsi parla Zarathoustra (Nietzsche/Barrault) (1974).ORCH.: Doubles (1957–8), expanded as Figures-Doubles-Prismes (1963, 1968); Tombeau (1959–62); Livre pour Cordes, orch. of Livre pour quatuor, str. qt. (1968);…explosante fixe…, unspecified forces (1971), fl., cl., tpt., hp., vib., vn., va., vc., elec. (1972, unpub.), fl., elec. (1989, unpub.); Mémoriales (1973–5); Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna (1974–5); Notations (rev. of early pf. pieces) (1980); Répons, 24 players, 6 instr. soloists, chamber ens., computers, live elec. (1981); Initiale, fanfare, 7 brass instr. (1987).ENS.: Le Visage nuptial (Char), sop., alto, 2 ondes Martenot, pf., perc. (1946–7), rev. sop., alto, women's ch., orch. (1951–2), third version for sop., mez., ch., and orch. (1985–9); Éclat, 15 instr. (1965), expanded as Éclats/Multiples, 27 instr. (1966, in progress); Domaines, cl., 21 instr. (1961–8); Dérive, fl., cl., vn., vc., vib., pf. (1984), Dérive II for 11 instr. (1988).VOCAL: Le Soleil des eaux (Char), mus. for radio play, v. and orch. (1948), rev. as cantata for sop., ten., bass, chamber orch. (1948, withdrawn), rev. sop., ten., bass, ch., orch. (1958), rev. sop., ch. and orch. (1965); Le Marteau sans maître (Char), alto, alto fl., guitar, vib., xylorimba, perc., va. (1953–5, rev. 1957); Improvisation sur Mallarmé I, sop., hp., bells, vib., perc. (1957), alternative version, sop., orch. 1962; II, sop., celesta, hp., pf., bells, vib., perc. (1957); III, sop., orch. (1959) 2nd version (1983–4), definitive version for sop. and orch. (1983–4); Don, sop., pf. (1960), alternative version sop., orch. (1962), new version for sop. and orch. (1989–90); Tombeau, sop., orch. (1959–60); Pli selon pli (Don, Improvisation sur Mallarmé I–III, Tombeau) (1957–90); cummings ist der dichter, (e.e. cummings), 16 solo vv., 24 instr. (1970), rev. version (1986).CHAMBER MUSIC: Sonatine, fl., pf. (1946); Livre pour quatuor, str. qt. (1948–9), new version (1989, unpub.); Strophes, fl. (1957); Domaines, cl. (1961–8), alternative version, cl. and 21 instr. (1961–8); Messagesquisse, vc. solo, 6 vc. (1976); Dialogue de l'ombre double, cl., elec. (1984); Mémoriale (‘…explosante fixe…’ originel), fl., 8 instr. (1985); Anthems, vn. (1991).PIANO: 12 Notations (1945); sonatas: No.1 (1946), No.2 (1946–8), No.3 (1955–7); Structures, Book I, 2 pf. (1951–2), complete (1953); Book II, 2 pf. (1956–61).TAPE: Etudes I, sur un son, II, sur sept sons, 1-track tape (1951–2); Symphonie Mécanique (mus. for film), 1-track tape (1955).

Boulez, Pierre

views updated Jun 11 2018

BOULEZ, Pierre

BOULEZ, Pierre. French, b. 1925. Genres: Music. Career: Composer. Compagnie Renaud/Barrault, Paris, France, theater music director, 1946-56; British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-TV) Symphony Orchestra, London, chief conductor, 1971-77; New York Philharmonic Orchestra, NYC, music director, 1971-77; College de France, Paris, professor, 1976-95; Institut de recherche et coordination-acoustique/musique, Paris, director, 1976-92; Ensemble Intercontemporain, Paris, president, 1977-98. Publications: Penser la Musique Aujourd'hui (title means: Thinking about Music Today), 1963, trans by S. Bradshaw and R.R. Bennett as Boulez on Music Today, 1971; Releves d'apprenti (texts collected and presented by P. Thevenin), 1966, trans by H. Weinstock as Notes of an Apprenticeship, 1968, trans by S. Walsh as Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, 1991; Par Volonte et Par Hasard: Entretiens avec Celestin Deliege (title means: Conversations with Deliege), 1975, trans by B. Hopkins as Conversations with Deliege, 1977; Points de Repere, ed. by J-J Nattiez, 1985, trans by M. Cooper as Orientations: Collected Writings, 1986; Jalons (Pour une Decennie), 1990. Contributor to books. Address: Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique, 1, Place Igor Stravinsky, 75004 Paris, France.

Boulez, Pierre

views updated May 17 2018

Boulez, Pierre (1925– ) French conductor and composer. Influenced by Olivier Messiaen and Anton von Webern, he aimed to extend serialism into all aspects of a composition, including rhythm and dynamics. His works for voice and orchestra have received much attention, especially Le Marteau sans maître (1954) and Pli selon pli (1960). Renowned for conducting complex 20th-century works, Boulez became director of the French Institute for Acoustic and Musical Research (IRCAM) in 1975.

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