Pierre Boulez CBE (French: [pjɛʁ bu.lɛːz]; 26 March 1925 – 5 January 2016) was a French composer, conductor, writer and organiser of institutions.

In his early composing career Boulez played an important role in the development of integral serialism and controlled chance music. Later he explored the electronic transformation of instrumental music in real time. The type of music which interested him, along with his highly polemical views on music evolution, gave him the reputation of enfant terrible.[1][2][3][4]

In a long conducting career Boulez held the positions of Chief Conductor of the New York Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras, Principal Guest Conductor of the Chicago Symphony and Cleveland Orchestras and Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He was particularly known for his performances of the music of the first half of the twentieth-century, including that of Debussy, Stravinsky and Schoenberg. He also gave authoritative performances of works by contemporary composers, such as Luciano Berio and Elliott Carter. His work in the field of opera included the Jahrhundertring—the production of Wagner's Ring cycle for the centenary of the Bayreuth Festival—and the world premiere of the complete, three-act version of Alban Berg's Lulu. His recorded legacy is extensive and he received a total of 26 Grammy Awards in the course of his career.

He was the founder of a number of musical institutions, including the Domaine musical, the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Cité de la musique (all based in Paris) and the Lucerne Festival Academy.

On 5 January 2016, Boulez died at his home in Baden-Baden, aged 90.

Contents 1 Biography 1.1 1925–1943: Childhood and school days 1.2 1943–1946: Musical education 1.3 1946–1953: Early career in Paris 1.4 1954–1959: The Domaine musical 1.5 1959–1971: International conducting career 1.6 1971–1977: London and New York 1.7 1977–1992: IRCAM 1.8 1992–2006: Return to conducting 1.9 2006–2016: Last years 2 Compositions 2.1 Student works 2.2 First published works 2.3 Serialism 2.3.1 Le marteau sans maître 2.4 Controlled chance 2.5 Works with electronics 2.6 Unfinished works 2.7 Legacy 3 Character and personal life 4 Conducting 5 Opera 6 Recording 7 Writing 8 Trivia 9 Selected compositions 10 Decorations and awards 11 Bibliography 12 References 13 External links


1925–1943: Childhood and school days

Pierre Boulez was born on 26 March 1925, in Montbrison, a small town in the Loire district of east-central France, to Léon and Marcelle (née Calabre) Boulez.[5] He was the third of four children: an older sister, Jeanne (b.1922) and younger brother, Roger (b.1936) were preceded by a first child, also called Pierre (b.1920), who died in infancy. Léon (1891-1969), an engineer and technical director of a steel factory, is described by biographers as an authoritarian figure with a strong sense of fairness; Marcelle (1897-1985) as a sociable and good-humoured woman, who deferred to her husband’s strict Catholic beliefs, whilst not necessarily sharing them. The family prospered, moving in 1929 from the apartment above a pharmacy at 29 rue Tupinerie, where Boulez was born, to a comfortable detached house at 46 avenue d'Alsace-Lorraine, where he spent most of his childhood.[6]

From the age of seven he attended school at the Institut Victor de Laprade, a Catholic seminary where the daily worship and gruelling schedule instilled in him an iron discipline which lasted all his life.[7] By the age of fifteen he was sceptical about religion:[8] "what struck me most was that it was so mechanical: there was a total absence of genuine conviction behind it". As a child he took piano lessons, played chamber music with local amateurs and sang in the school choir.[9]

After completing the first part of his baccalaureate (a year early and top of his class in physics and chemistry) he spent the school year of 1940–41 at the Pensionnat St. Louis, a boarding school in nearby St. Etienne. The following year, at his father’s instigation, he took courses in advanced mathematics at the University of Lyon to prepare him for a career in engineering.[10] It was in Lyon that he first heard an orchestra and attended his first operas (Boris Godunov and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg).[11] He also met the well-known soprano Ninon Vallin, who asked him to accompany her in arias from Aida and La Damnation de Faust. Impressed by his ability, she persuaded Léon to allow his son to apply to the Conservatoire in Lyon, but the selection board rejected him. Boulez remained determined to pursue a career in music. The following academic year, with his sister's support and in the teeth of his father's opposition, he studied piano and harmony privately with Lionel de Pachmann (son of the pianist Vladimir).[12] "Our parents were strong, but finally we were stronger than they," Boulez would later say.[13] In fact, when he moved to Paris in the autumn of 1943, Léon accompanied him, helped him find a room (in the rue Oudinot near the Invalides) and subsidized him until he could earn a living.[14]

1943–1946: Musical education

Andrée Vaurabourg

In late 1943 he entered the preparatory harmony class of Georges Dandelot at the Paris Conservatoire.[15] There he was introduced to Andrée Vaurabourg, who was married to the composer Arthur Honegger, and between April 1944 and May 1946 he studied counterpoint privately with her. She remembered him as an exceptional student ("he seemed capable of anything"), so much so that she continued to use his exercises as models in advanced counterpoint until the end of her teaching career.[16] He also studied the piano privately in the hope of entering Jean Doyen's class, but he was unsuccessful.[17]

In the autumn of 1944 he joined Olivier Messiaen’s advanced harmony class at the Conservatoire and attended the private seminars which Messiaen gave to chosen students, where key works of the early twentieth-century, including Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, Berg’s Lyric Suite and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, were subjected to intensive analysis.[18]

Olivier Messiaen in 1946

In January 1945 Boulez moved to two small garret rooms at 4 rue Beautreillis in the Marais district of Paris, where he lived for the next fourteen years.[19] The following month he attended a private performance of Schoenberg’s Wind Quintet, conducted by René Leibowitz, a pupil and follower of Schoenberg. The piece was a revelation to him and he organized a group of students to have private lessons with Leibowitz. It was here that he first studied twelve-tone technique and discovered the music of Webern.[20] Around this time he was one of a group of Conservatoire students (organised, it was said, by Leibowitz) who joined in sustained booing at a performance of Stravinsky's Danses concertantes, a work whose neo-classicism represented the pre-war culture he was determined to reject.[21] Eventually he also found Leibowitz’s approach too rigid and doctrinaire ("Schoenberg was the truth, the Bible")[22] and he broke violently with him in 1946 when Leibowitz tried to criticise one of his early works.[23]

In the spring of 1945 he gained the Conservatoire’s first prize in harmony. The following academic year he took a course in fugue with Simone Plé-Caussade. It so infuriated him (‘I could not stand it, she was unimaginative and the class was dead’) that he boycotted it and organized a petition that Messiaen be given a full professorship in composition.[24] In the winter of 1945/46 he was introduced to Balinese and Japanese music and African drumming at the Musée Guimet in Paris.[25] “I almost chose the career of an ethnomusicologist because I was so fascinated by that music. It gives a different feeling of time.”[26]

1946–1953: Early career in Paris

Jean-Louis Barrault in 1952 (photograph by Carl van Vechten)

Boulez earned money by giving maths lessons to his landlord’s son and playing the ondes Martenot (an early electronic instrument), including at the Folies Bergère.[27][28] In early 1946 the theatre director Jean-Louis Barrault was looking for someone to play the instrument for a production of Hamlet by his Compagnie Renaud-Barrault and Honegger suggested Boulez.[29] He was soon appointed Music Director of the company, a post he held for nine years. He arranged and conducted incidental music, mostly by composers with whom he had little or no affinity (such as Milhaud and Tchaikovsky) but it gave him the chance to work with a group of professional musicians and left him time to compose during the day.[30]

This was a period of intense compositional activity for Boulez. Between 1947 and 1950 a series of major works received their first public performances: the Sonatine pour flûte et piano, the first two piano sonatas and initial versions of two cantatas on texts by René Char, Le visage nuptial and Le soleil des eaux.[31] In 1951 a large work for eighteen solo instruments, Polyphonie X, created a scandal on its première at the Donaueschingen Festival, some members of the audience interrupting with hisses and whistles.[32] He withdrew the piece immediately and it has never been performed since.[33] He also made his first experiments with electronic music, producing Deux Etudes for magnetic tape for Pierre Schaeffer’s Groupe Recherche de la Radiodiffusion Française but again he was dissatisfied with the results and withdrew the pieces.[34]

Around this time he met two composers who were to be important influences: John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. His friendship with Cage began in 1949 when Cage was visiting Paris. Cage introduced him to two publishers, who agreed to take Boulez's recent pieces; Boulez helped to arrange a private performance of Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano.[35] When Cage returned to New York they began an intense, six-year correspondence about the future of music. In 1952 Stockhausen arrived in Paris to study with Messiaen.[36] Although Boulez knew no German and Stockhausen no French, the rapport between them was instant: "A friend translated [and] we gesticulated wildly ... We talked about music all the time—in a way I've never talked about it with anyone else."[37]

In May 1952 Boulez gave the first public performance of Structure 1a for two pianos (with Olivier Messiaen). Boulez quickly became one of the philosophical leaders of the post-war movement in the arts towards greater abstraction and experimentation. Many composers of Boulez's generation taught at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt, Germany, which Boulez attended for the first time in July 1952. According to Scott Burnham, in the so-called Darmstadt School composers were instrumental in creating a style that, for a time, existed as an "antidote" to music of nationalist fervor; an international, cosmopolitan style that could not be "co-opted" as propaganda in the way that the Nazis used, for example, the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.[38] As well as Cage and Stockhausen, Boulez was in contact with many composers who would become influential, including Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, and Henri Pousseur.

Towards the end of 1952 a tour with the Renaud-Barrault company took him to New York for the first time, where he met Stravinsky and Varèse.[36] He stayed at Cage's apartment but their friendship was already cooling as he could not accept Cage's increasing commitment to chance compositional procedures. On his return to France, he stopped corresponding with Cage.[39]

1954–1959: The Domaine musical

The Salle Popesco in Paris, formerly the Petit Marigny

In 1954, with the financial backing of Barrault and Madeleine Renaud, he established a concert series at the Petit Marigny theatre, which became known as the Domaine musical. The first four concerts adopted a tripartite approach to repertoire: pre-war classics still unfamiliar in Paris (Bartok, Webern), works by the new generation (Stockhausen, Nono) and neglected masters from the past (Machaut, Gesualdo)—although, for practical reasons, the last category fell away in subsequent seasons.[40] Boulez proved an energetic and accomplished administrator, taking charge of everything from managing subscriptions to putting out music stands.[41] The theatre was small, the wooden seats hard and the programmes inordinately long,[42] yet the concerts were an immediate success. The composer Francis Poulenc observed: "there is a touching atmosphere at the concerts. Crowds of young people cram in together for standing room."[43] They attracted musicians, painters and writers, as well as fashionable society,[44] but they proved so costly that Boulez had to turn to wealthy private patrons for support, in particular Suzanne Tézenas.[45]

At the ISCM Festival in Baden-Baden on 18 June 1955, after fifty rehearsals, Hans Rosbaud conducted the first performance of Boulez's best-known work, Le marteau sans maître. A nine-movement cycle for alto voice and instrumental ensemble based on poems by René Char,[5] it was an immediate, international success.[46] William Glock wrote: "even at a first hearing, though difficult to take in, it was so utterly new in sound, texture and feeling that it seemed to possess a mythical quality like that of Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire."[47] Stravinsky described it as “one of the few significant works of the post-war period of exploration.”[48]

In the early years Boulez left most of the conducting duties of the Domaine musical to others, including Hermann Scherchen and Hans Rosbaud.[49] On 21 March 1956 he gave his first concert as a conductor in a Domaine programme which featured the French première of Le marteau sans maître.[50] Other notable events in the Domaine's history included a Webern festival (1955), the European premiere of Stravinsky’s Agon (1957) and first performances of Messaien’s Oiseaux exotiques (1955) and Sept Haïkaï (1963).[51] There were failures too, most famously the first Paris performance of Stravinsky's Threni in 1958. Poorly planned by Boulez and nervously conducted by Stravinsky, the performance broke down more than once. According to Glock, who sat between Stravinsky and Boulez at dinner afterwards, "the atmosphere was electric with discontent."[52]

The concerts subsequently moved to larger auditoriums: the Salle Gaveau (1956-1959) and the Théâtre de l'Odéon (1959-1968).[53] Boulez remained director of the Domaine until 1967, when Gilbert Amy succeeded him.[54]

In Darmstadt in September 1957 Boulez himself played an early version of the Piano Sonata No. 3.[55] In January 1958 the Improvisations sur Mallarmé (I et II) appeared, forming the kernel of a work which would grow over the next four years into a vast, five-movement "portrait of Mallarmé", Pli selon pli. It received its première in Donaueschingen in October 1962.[56]

1959–1971: International conducting career

In 1959 Boulez left Paris and moved to Baden-Baden in Germany. Robert Piencikowski suggests a number of reasons for the move: excellent rehearsal conditions with the orchestra of the Südwestfunk, an electronic studio where he could work on a new piece (Poésie pour pouvoir), but also disenchantment with the political climate in France under de Gaulle at the time of the Algerian war.[57]

During this period he turned increasingly to conducting. His first engagement as an orchestral conductor had been in 1956, when he conducted the Venezuelan Symphony Orchestra whilst on tour with the Renaud-Barrault company.[58] In Cologne he conducted his own Le visage nuptial in 1957 and—with Bruno Maderna and the composer—the first performances of Stockhausen's Gruppen in 1958. His breakthrough came in 1959 when he replaced the ailing Hans Rosbaud at short notice in demanding programmes of 20th-century music at the Aix-en-Provence and Donaueschingen Festivals, culminating in a performance of Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin which Boulez remembered as "explosive."[59] This led to débuts with the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Bavarian Radio Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras.[60] In 1963 he conducted the Orchestre National de France in the 50th anniversary performance of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, where the piece had had its riotous première.[5]

He made his orchestral debut in the United States in March 1965 with the Cleveland Orchestra, an orchestra with which he had a particular affinity[61] because of its virtuosity and tonal refinement. He became the orchestra’s principal guest conductor in February 1969, a post he held until the end of 1971.[62] After the death of George Szell in July 1970, he took on the role of Music Adviser for two years, but the title was largely honorary owing to his commitments in London and New York.[63] In the 1968-69 season he also made guest appearances in Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.[64]

In 1963 Boulez conducted his first opera, Berg’s Wozzeck at the Opéra National de Paris, directed by Jean-Louis Barrault with designs by André Masson.[65][66] He enjoyed exceptional conditions, with thirty orchestral rehearsals instead of the usual three or four,[67] and the critical response was unanimously favourable.[68] He conducted Wozzeck again in April 1966 at the Frankfurt Opera in a new production by Wieland Wagner.[69] Wieland had already invited him to join the Bayreuth Festival's roster for Parsifal later in the season—after Hans Knappertsbusch died—and he returned to conduct revivals in 1967, 1968 and 1970.[70] He also conducted performances of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde by the Bayreuth company at the Osaka Festival in Japan in 1967, an experience he later said he "would rather forget".[71] By contrast, hIs conducting of the new production (by Václav Kašlík) of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande at Covent Garden in 1969 was widely praised.[72]

Apart from Pli selon pli, the only substantial new work to emerge in the first half of the 1960s was the final version of book 2 of his Structures for two pianos. Boulez and Yvonne Loriod gave the premiere at the Donaueschinger Musiktage in October 1961.[73] Midway through the decade, however, Boulez appeared to find his voice again. Éclat, a short and brilliant piece for small ensemble, had its first performance in Los Angeles in March 1965 and by 1970 it had grown into a substantial half-hour work, Éclat/Multiples.[74] In 1968 the final version of Figures, Doubles, Prismes for large orchestra, a version of two movements from Livre pour quatuor for string orchestra (entitled Livre pour codes) and the two versions of Domaines (clarinet solo / clarinet and ensemble) all received first performances.[75]

1971–1977: London and New York

David Geffen Hall, formerly Avery Fisher Hall, at Lincoln Centre, New York

Boulez first conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra in February 1964, in an unlikely place–the seaside resort of Worthing–and in some unlikely repertoire, accompanying Vladimir Ashkenazy in a Chopin piano concerto ("It was terrible, I felt like a waiter who keeps dropping the plates").[76] His appearances with the orchestra over the next five years included his débuts at the Proms and at Carnegie Hall (1965), and a tour to Prague, Berlin, Moscow and Leningrad (1967).[77] In January 1969 William Glock, Controller of Music at the BBC, appointed him Chief Conductor.[78]

Two months later Boulez conducted the New York Philharmonic for the first time.[79] His performances so impressed both orchestra and management that he was offered the chief conductorship in succession to Leonard Bernstein. Glock was dismayed and tried to persuade him that accepting the New York position would detract from his work in London and his ability to compose but Boulez could not resist the opportunity (as Glock put it) "to reform the music-making of both these world cities" and in June the New York appointment was confirmed.[80][81]

His tenure in New York lasted between 1971 and 1977 and was not an unqualified success. The dependence on a subscription audience placed limits on his programming. He introduced more classics from the first half of the twentieth-century. With earlier repertoire he shifted the focus away from familiar staples towards less well-known works: in the 1972-73 season, for example, he conducted Schütz's Fili mi, Absolom, Haydn's L'incontro improvviso and Prokofiev's Suite from Chout.[82] Performances of new works were relatively rare. The players admired his musicianship but came to regard him as dry and unemotional by comparison with his predecessor, although it was widely accepted that he improved the standard of playing.[83] He returned on only three occasions to the orchestra in later years.[84]

His time with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was altogether happier. With the resources of the BBC behind him he could be more uncompromising in his choice of repertoire.[83] There were occasional forays into the nineteenth century, particularly at the Proms (Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in 1972, the Brahms German Requiem in 1973), but for the most part he worked intensively with the orchestra on the music of the twentieth-century. He conducted works by leading British composers such as Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies—although Britten and Tippett were absent from his programmes.[85] His relations with the musicians were generally excellent.[86] He was Chief Conductor between 1971 and 1975, continuing as Chief Guest Conductor until 1977. Thereafter he returned to the orchestra frequently until his last appearance at a Prom in August 2008, when he conducted the orchestra in a concert of the music of Leoš Janáček, including his Glagolitic Mass.[87] In January 2016 BBC Four broadcast the hour-long documentary Pierre Boulez at the BBC: Master and Maverick.[88]

In both cities he tried to find or adapt venues where music could be presented more informally: in New York he began a series of "Rug Concerts"—when the seats in Avery Fisher Hall were taken out and the audience sat on the floor—and a series called "Prospective Encounters" in Greenwich Village.[89] In London he presented concerts at the Roundhouse, a former railway turntable shed which Peter Brook had also used for radical theatre productions. His aim was "to create a feeling that we are all, audience, players and myself, taking part in an act of exploration."[90]

In 1972 Wolfgang Wagner, who had succeeded his brother Wieland as Director of the Bayreuth Festival, invited Boulez to conduct the 1976 centenary production of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.[91] The director was Patrice Chéreau. Highly controversial in its first year, by its final year in 1980 it was praised as one of the great Wagner productions. It was televised around the world.[92]

Perhaps unsurprisingly, few new works emerged during this period: Cummings ist der Dichter was first performed in Stuttgart in September 1970. In April 1975 Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna received its premiere in London and Messagesquisse, a short piece for eight cellos in July 1977 in La Rochelle.[93]

1977–1992: IRCAM

The IRCAM building at the Centre Pompidou

In 1970 Boulez was asked by President Pompidou to return to France and to create and head an institute specializing in musical research and creation at the arts complex (now known as the Centre Georges Pompidou), which was planned for the Beaubourg district of Paris. The Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique / Musique (IRCAM) opened in 1977.

Boulez had in mind as a model the Bauhaus, which had provided a meeting place for artists and scientists of all disciplines.[94] IRCAM's aims would include research into acoustics, instrumental design and the use of computers in composition.[5] The original building was constructed underground, partly to isolate it acoustically and partly so as not to obstruct the view of the Saint-Merri church (an above-ground extension was added later).[95] The institution was criticised for absorbing too much state subsidy, Boulez for wielding too much power.[5] At the same time Boulez founded the Ensemble Intercontemporain, a virtuoso ensemble which specialised in the performance of twentieth-century music and the creation of new works.[96]

Boulez wrote a series of pieces which used the potential developed at IRCAM electronically to transform sound in real time. The first of these were Répons (1981–84), a large-scale work for soloists and ensemble, and Dialogue de l'ombre double (1985), a more intimate work for clarinet and electronics. The desire to expand unrealized possibilities also led him to revise earlier works. HIs cantata on poems by René Char, Le visage nuptial (1946) was radically re-worked, reaching its final form in 1989. The twelve miniatures for piano, Notations (1945), were, from the 1970s onwards, in the process of being transformed into a cycle for large orchestra. The first four movements (I-IV) were performed by Daniel Barenboim and the Orchestre de Paris in 1980.[97]

In 1979 he embarked with Chéreau on an operatic project scarcely less groundbreaking than the Ring: the first performances of the three-act version of Alban Berg's Lulu at the Paris Opera in the completion by Friedrich Cerha.[98] Otherwise Boulez scaled back his conducting commitments to concentrate on IRCAM. The majority of his appearances during this period were with his own Ensemble Intercontemporain—including tours to the United States (1986), Australia (1988), the Soviet Union (1990) and Canada (1991)—although he also renewed his links in the 1980s with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.[99]

From 1976 to 1995, he held the Chair in Invention, technique et langage en musique at the Collège de France.[100]

1992–2006: Return to conducting

Boulez at a conference at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, in 2004

In 1992 Boulez relinquished the directorship of IRCAM, handing over to Laurent Bayle, in order to concentrate on composition and conducting.[101]

The previous year he began a series of annual residencies with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In 1995 he was named principal guest conductor in Chicago, only the third conductor to hold that position in the orchestra's history. He held the post until 2005, when he became conductor emeritus.[102] His 70th birthday in 1995 was marked by a six-month retrospective tour with the London Symphony Orchestra, taking in Paris, Vienna and New York, which culminated in a residency in Tokyo, where he was joined by the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the CSO.[103] In 2001 Boulez conducted a major Bartok cycle with the Orchestre de Paris.[101]

This period also marked a return to the opera house. He worked with Peter Stein on two productions: Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1992, Welsh National Opera[104] and Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris); and Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron (1995, Netherlands Opera[105] and Salzburg Festival). At the Aix-en-Provence Festival he conducted Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle (1998, in a production by Pina Bausch)[106] and a triple bill of music-theatre pieces: Falla's El retablo de maese Pedro, Renard by Stravinsky and Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire (2003, directed by Klaus Michael Gruber).[107] In 2000 he took part in a different kind of theatre, conducting Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps and Symphony of Psalms for the Zingaro equestrian theatre in an exhibition centre near Charles de Gaulle Airport.[108] In 2004 and 2005 he returned to Bayreuth to conduct a controversial new production of Parsifal directed by Christoph Schlingensief.[109]

Boulez wrote two further pieces using the resources of IRCAM: ...explosante-fixe... (1993), which had its origins in 1972 as a tribute to Stravinsky; and Anthèmes II (1997) for solo violin and electronics. In 1998 he completed work on a large piece for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists, Sur Incises, for which he was awarded the 2001 Grawemeyer Prize for composition.[110] In 1999 the orchestral version of Notation VII was given its first performance in Chicago.[101]

He continued to involve himself closely in institutional organisation. He co-founded the Cité de la Musique, which opened in La Villette on the outskirts of Paris in 1995.[27] Consisting of a modular concert hall, museum and mediatheque—with the Paris Conservatoire on an adjacent site—it became the home to the Ensemble Intercontemporain and attracted a diverse audience.[111] In 2004, he co-founded the Lucerne Festival Academy, an orchestral institute for young musicians, dedicated to music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.[112] For the next ten years he spent the last three weeks of summer working with young composers and conducting programmes with the Academy's orchestra.[113]

2006–2016: Last years

Boulez and Roger Wright, Director of the BBC Proms, returning to the Royal Albert Hall

Boulez's last major composition was Dérive 2 (2006) a 50-minute work for eleven instruments, developed from a piece first heard in 1988. The premieres of two further orchestral Notations (V and VI) were announced by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for May 2006 but later postponed.[114] In an interview in 2010 Boulez said that he had finished Notation V in short score and was now working on Notation VIII.[115] He was in the process of developing Anthèmes 2 into a large-scale work for violin and orchestra for Anne-Sophie Mutter[116] and spoke of writing an opera based on Beckett's Waiting For Godot.[117] None of these projects came to fruition.

He continued to conduct, including a final operatic project in 2007, when he was re-united with Chéreau for Leoš Janáček's From the House of the Dead, originating at Vienna's Theater an der Wien, later traveling to Amsterdam and Aix.[118] In April of the same year, as part of the Festtage in Berlin, Boulez and Daniel Barenboim presented a complete cycle of all the Mahler symphonies with the Staatskapelle Berlin. Boulez conducted numbers 2, 3, 4, 6 and 8. They repeated the cycle over twelve days at Carnegie Hall in 2009.[119]

His appearances became more infrequent after an eye operation in 2010 left him with severely impaired sight.[120] Other health problems included a shoulder injury resulting from a fall.[120][121] In late 2011, when he was already quite frail,[122] he led the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Lucerne Festival Academy with the soprano Barbara Hannigan in a tour of six European cities of his own Pli selon pli.[123] His made his final appearance as a conductor in Salzburg on 28 January 2012 with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Mitsuko Uchida as part of the Salzburg Mozart Week in a programme of Schoenberg (Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielszene and the Piano Concerto), Mozart (Piano Concerto No.19 in F major K459) and Stravinsky (Pulcinella Suite).[124] Thereafter he cancelled all conducting engagements.

Later in 2012 he worked with the Diotima Quartet, making final revisions to the score of Livre pour quatuor, his only string quartet, begun in 1948.[125] In May 2013, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the first performance of Le sacre du printemps, he gave a public interview with Robert Piencikowski at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris about his encounters with Stravinsky and his music.[126] The same year he supervised the release of Pierre Boulez: Complete Works, a comprehensive survey of his authorised compositions, released on Deutsche Grammophon but drawing on recordings licensed from other labels and including a 2011 interview with Claude Samuel. He continued as Director of the Lucerne Festival Academy until 2014. His health prevented him from taking part in the many celebrations, held across the world, for his 90th birthday in 2015.[127]

He died on 5 January 2016 at his home in Baden-Baden.[128] He was buried on 13 January in Baden-Baden's main cemetery following a church service. At a memorial service the next day at the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, eulogists included Daniel Barenboim, Renzo Piano, and Laurent Bayle, president of the Philharmonie de Paris,[129] whose large concert hall had been inaugurated the previous year, thanks in no small measure to Boulez's influence.


Student works

Boulez's earliest surviving compositions date from 1942–43, mostly songs on texts by Baudelaire, Gautier and Rilke.[130] Gerald Bennett describes them as "modest, delicate and rather anonymous [employing] a certain number of standard elements of French salon music of the time—whole-tone scales, pentatonic scales and polytonality".[131] As a student at the Conservatoire Boulez composed a series of piano pieces in 1944-45 influenced by the music of Honegger (Prelude, Toccata and Scherzo and Nocturne).[132] In his next pieces, including the Trois psalmodies for piano (1945) and a Quartet for four ondes martenot (1945-46), the influence of Messiaen is more evident.[133] The impact of his encounter with the music of Webern at Leibowitz's classes is clear in the Onze notations pour orchestre, an early attempt to orchestrate eleven of the Douze notations for piano (1946). According to Bennett "the most important difference compared with earlier pieces is the pitch-structure itself. Virtually diatonic passages alternate with others in a style more nearly resembling Webern's own jagged chromaticism."[134]

Of these very early pieces only the Douze notations were published—much later in 1985—by which time Boulez had embarked on their radical transformation into works for large orchestra, a project which pre-occupied him to the very end of his life.[135] This is only the most extreme example of a lifelong tendency to revisit earlier works.

First published works

He went on to write atonal music in a post-Webernian serial style.[136] Important early works included his cantatas Le visage nuptial and Le soleil des eaux for female voices and orchestra, both composed in the late 1940s and revised several times since, as well as the Second Piano Sonata of 1948, a well-received 32-minute work that Boulez composed at the age of 23.


[A]ny musician who has not experienced‍—‌I do not say understood, but truly experienced‍—‌the necessity of dodecaphonic music is USELESS. For his whole work is irrelevant to the needs of his epoch.

— Pierre Boulez ("Eventuellement...", 1952, translated as "Possibly...")[137]

Boulez's totally serialized, punctual works consist of Polyphonie X (1950–51; withdrawn) for 18 instruments, the two musique concrète Études (1951–52), and Structures, book I for two pianos.[138] Structures was also a turning point for Boulez. As one of the most visible totally serialized works, it became a lightning rod for various kinds of criticism. György Ligeti, for example, published an article that examined its patterns of durations, dynamics, pitch, and attack types in great detail, concluding that its "ascetic attitude" is "akin to compulsion neurosis", and that Boulez "had to break away from it ... And so he created the sensual feline world of the 'Marteau'".[139]

These criticisms, combined with what Boulez felt was a lack of expressive flexibility in the language, as he outlined in his essay "At the Limit of Fertile Land..." had already led Boulez to refine his compositional language. He loosened the strictness of his total serialism into a more supple and strongly gestural music, and did not publicly reveal much about these techniques, which limited further discussion. His first venture into this new kind of serialism was a work for 12 solo voices titled Oubli signal lapidé (1952), but it was withdrawn after a single performance. Its material was reused in the 1970 composition Cummings ist der Dichter.[140][verification needed]

Le marteau sans maître

Boulez's strongest achievement in this method is Le marteau sans maître (The Hammer without a Master) for ensemble and voice, from 1953 to 1957, a "keystone of 20th-century music".[138]

Boulez described one of the work's innovations, called "pitch multiplication", in several articles, most importantly in the chapter "Musical Technique" in Boulez 1971. It was Lev Koblyakov, however, who first described its presence in the three "L'artisanat furieux" movements of Le marteau sans maître,[141] in his 1981 doctoral thesis.[142] However, an explanation of the processes themselves was not made until 1993.[143] Other techniques used in the "Bourreaux de solitude" cycle were first described by Ulrich Mosch,[144] and later fully elaborated by him.[145]

Controlled chance

Alexander Calder Room, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Why compose works that have to be re-created every time they are performed? Because definitive, once-and-for-all developments seem no longer appropriate to musical thought as it is today, or to the actual state that we have reached in the evolution of musical technique, which is increasingly concerned with the investigation of a relative world, a permanent 'discovering' rather like the state of 'permanent revolution'.

— Pierre Boulez ("Sonate, que me veux-tu?", 1960)[146]

From the 1950s, beginning with the Third Piano Sonata (1955–57/63), Boulez experimented with what he called "controlled chance" and he developed his views on aleatoric music in the articles "Aléa" and "Sonate, que me veux-tu?"[147] His use of chance, which he would later employ in compositions like Éclat (1965), Domaines (1961–68) and Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna (1974–75), is very different from that in the works of, for example, John Cage. While in Cage's music the performers are often given the freedom to create completely unforeseen sounds, with the object of removing the composer's intention from the music, in works by Boulez they only get to choose between possibilities that have been written out in detail by the composer‍—‌a method that, when applied to the successional order of sections, is often described as "mobile form", a formal technique innovated by his colleague Earle Brown in 1952 and originally inspired by Alexander Calder's sculptures.[148]

Works with electronics

Boulez likened the experience of playing taped music in a concert hall to a "crematorium ceremony". The only wholly pre-recorded pieces he composed were the Deux Etudes (1951, withdrawn). He first combined orchestra and electronics in Poésie pour pouvoir (1958), using a text by Henri Michaux. He created a quasi-theatrical space with the orchestra and two conductors on platforms in a mounting spiral, and with the speakers placed behind the audience. His aim was to achieve continuity between what he described as "the heterogeneous character of the two media," using percussion to mediate between them. He was dissatisfied with the result and never returned to the piece.[149]

Unfinished works

A distinction may be made between works which Boulez was actively progressing in his later years and those which he had consciously abandoned, despite their potential for further development. Into the second category fall Répons, to which at one stage he planned to add a second part[150] and the Third Piano Sonata, of which two unpublished movements exist in the archives.[151] Éclat/Multiples seems to have occupied a middle-ground. Boulez suggested in 2010 that he planned to return to it ("it is almost finished ... I have practically twice the length of the work as I play it now"), although there is nothing to suggest that he did.[115]


An article published for Boulez's 80th birthday in the Guardian revealed that Boulez's fellow-composers had divided, and sometimes equivocal, views about him. For George Benjamin "Boulez's music stands out as a monument to individualism and the supremacy of the artistic imagination" and for Oliver Knussen he was "a man who fashions his scores with the fanatical idealism of a medieval monk minutely illuminating volumes." John Adams described him as "a mannerist, a niche composer, a master who worked with a very small hammer." Thomas Adès compared Boulez to the sculptor Bouchardon, esteemed in the eighteenth-century France as the greatest sculptor of his day, now regarded as a minor figure, pointedly quoting a description of the latter's work as "too finished, too chaste, and, at times, icily dull." Alexander Goehr thought that "[Boulez's] failures will be better than most people's successes."[152]

Character and personal lifeEdit

As a young man Boulez was an explosive, often confrontational figure. Jean-Louis Barrault, who knew him in his twenties, caught the contradictions in his personality: "his powerful aggressiveness was a sign of creative passion, a particular blend of intransigence and humour, the way his moods of affection and insolence succeeded one another, all these had drawn us near to him."[153] Messiaen said later: "He was in revolt against everything."[154] Indeed at one point Boulez turned against Messiaen, describing his Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine as “brothel music” and saying that the Turangalîla-symphonie made him vomit.[27] It was five years before relations were restored.[155]

Senecio, Head of a Man (1922) by Paul Klee Those who knew Boulez well often referred to his loyalty, both to individuals and to organisations. When the great French conductor Roger Désormière was paralysed by a stroke in 1952 Boulez sent scripts to French Radio in Désormière's name so that his mentor could collect the fee.[156] The writer Jean Vermeil, who spent an evening with Boulez in the 1990s in the company of Jean Batigne (founder of the Percussions de Strasbourg), "discovered a different Boulez, a Boulez asking about the health of a musician in the Strasbourg orchestra, about another player's children, a Boulez who knew everyone by name and who reacted to each person's news with sadness or with joy."[157]

On the other hand, when his sympathies were not engaged he could be a formidable opponent. Alex Ross, in his book The Rest is Noise, described him as a bully. Boulez did not disagree: “Certainly I was a bully. I’m not ashamed of it at all. The hostility of the establishment to what you were able to do in the Forties and Fifties was very strong. Sometimes you have to fight against your society.”[26]

In later life he was known for his charm and personal warmth.[5] Of his humour, Gerard McBurney wrote that it "depended on his twinkling eyes, his perfect timing, his infectious schoolboy giggle, and his reckless compulsion always to say what the other person would not expect. And, when speaking English, on his Inspector Clouseau accent, which he sometimes played to the hilt."[158]

Boulez had a lifelong interest in the visual arts. He wrote extensively about the painter Paul Klee and was a discerning collector of contemporary art, including works by Joan Miró, Francis Bacon, Nicholas de Staël and Vieira da Silva, all of whom he knew personally.[159] He was also a keen walker and, when he was at home in Baden-Baden, spent the late afternoons and much of the weekends walking in the Black Forest.[160]

In its obituary, The New York Times reported that "about his private life he remained tightly guarded" and that apart from his older sister, Jeanne, "few others were able to break through his reserve."[161] Boulez acknowledged to the biographer Joan Peyser that there was a passionate affair in 1946 which he described as "intense and tormented" and which Peyser suggested was the trigger for the "wild, courageous works" of that period. Aside from this his personal life remained almost entirely invisible.[162] Music critic Norman Lebrecht, who knew Boulez personally, speculated that he was gay, citing the fact that for many years he shared his home in Baden-Baden with Hans Messmer,[5] whom he sometimes referred to as his valet.[163] In his portrait for The New Yorker, published shortly after Boulez's death under the title The Magus, Alex Ross described him as "affable, implacable, unknowable."[117]


Boulez was one of the leading conductors of the second half of the twentieth century. In a career lasting more than sixty years he directed most of the world's major orchestras. He was entirely self-taught, although he said that he learnt a great deal—both about the practicalities of conducting and about orchestration—from attending Roger Désormière's rehearsals.[164] He also credited Hans Rosbaud and George Szell as influential mentors.[165]

Explaining why he turned to conducting, Boulez said that he was convinced that the best possible training for a composer was "to have to play or conduct his own works and to face their difficulties of execution"–yet on a practical level he sometimes struggled to find time to compose around his conducting commitments.[166] The writer and pianist Susan Bradshaw thought this was deliberate and related to a sense of being overshadowed as a composer by Stockhausen, who from the late 1950s was increasingly prolific. "His conducting career made it impossible for him to compose. And he probably preferred it this way." The French aesthetician Pierre Souvchinsky disagreed: "Boulez became a conductor because he had a great gift for it".[167]

Conducting workshop with Boulez in Lucerne (2005)

Not everyone agreed about the greatness of that gift. For the conductor Otto Klemperer he was "without doubt the only man of his generation who is an outstanding conductor and musician."[168] For the critic Hans Keller he was "incapable of phrasing. It's as simple as that ... That's why he conducts Bach, Beethoven or Webern in exactly the same way."[169] His biographer Joan Peyser considered that "in general Boulez conducts what he loves magnificently, conducts what he likes very well and, with rare exceptions, gives stiff performances of the classic and romantic repertoire."[170]

He was primarily known for his polished interpretations of twentieth-century classics‍—‌Stravinsky and Bartók, Debussy and Ravel, Mahler and Varèse, Schoenberg, Webern and Berg[171]‍—‌ as well as for authoritative performances of contemporary music. Although in the first part of his career he conducted a wide range of earlier composers, only Berlioz and Wagner remained a consistent presence in his repertoire. In 1984 he collaborated with Frank Zappa, conducting the Ensemble Intercontemporain in three of Zappa's pieces.

Clarity, precision, rhythmic agility and a respect for the composers' intentions as notated in the musical score are the hallmarks of his conducting style.[172][173][174][175] His rhythmic precision, achieved without the use of a baton, combined with his acute tonal discernment to engender many orchestral legends: "There are countless stories of him detecting, for example, faulty intonation from the third oboe in a complex orchestral texture," Paul Griffiths wrote in The New York Times.[161]

Oliver Knussen, himself a distinguished composer-conductor, observed that: "his rehearsals are models of clear-headedness and professional courtesy—he effortlessly commands respect."[152] Sidonie Goossens, harpist in the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recalled: "It was a rare occasion on which he lost his temper, and then usually for bad behaviour and inattention, seldom for bad notes."[176]

When asked about the audience, Boulez said: "For modern music, I prefer an audience that has vertical interests–that is, people who are interested in modern movies, modern art, modern literature" rather than "those who are interested in Beethoven as they would be in a cup of tea".[177]


The 1976 centenary production of Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuth Festival, conducted by Boulez

Boulez also conducted in the opera house. His chosen repertoire was small and included no Italian opera. Apart from Wagner, he conducted only twentieth-century works. Things might have been different had his attempts to find a long-term collaborator, and to reform operatic institutions, not been consistently frustrated.

Of his early work with Wieland Wagner on Wozzeck and Parsifal Boulez said: "I would willingly have hitched, if not my entire fate, then at least a part of it, to someone like him, for [our] discussions about music and productions were thrilling." They planned other productions together, including Elektra, Boris Godunov and Don Giovanni, but by the time rehearsals for their Bayreuth Parsifal began Wieland was already gravely ill and he died in October 1966.[178]

When the Frankfurt Wozzeck was revived after Wieland's death Boulez was deeply disillusioned by the working conditions: "there was no rehearsal, no care taken over anything. The cynicism of the way an opera house like that was run disgusted me. It still disgusts me." He later said[71] that it was this experience which prompted his notorious remarks in an interview the following year in Der Spiegel, in which he claimed that "no opera worth mentioning had been composed since 1935", that "a Beatles record is certainly cleverer (and shorter) than a Henze opera" and that "the most elegant" solution to opera's moribund condition would be "to blow the opera houses up".[179]

In 1967, not long after the Spiegel interview Boulez, theatre director Jean Vilar and choreographer Maurice Béjart were asked to devise a scheme for the reform of the Paris Opéra, with a view to Boulez becoming its music director. Their plan—to close the Opéra-Comique, merge its orchestra with that of the Palais Garnier, end permanent singer contracts and focus on a smaller repertoire—was derailed by the political fallout from the 1968 student protests.[180] Later, in the mid-1980s, Boulez became Vice President of the planned Opéra Bastille in Paris, working with Daniel Barenboim, who was to to be its music director. In 1988 the incoming Culture Minister Jack Lang appointed Pierre Bergé (president of Yves Saint Laurent) as Director. Bergé dismissed Barenboim and Boulez withdrew in solidarity, taking his planned productions with him.[181]

In the event Boulez conducted only specific projects—often in landmark productions by leading stage directors—when he could be satisfied that conditions were right. Thanks to his years with the Barrault company, the theatrical dimension was as important to him as the musical and he always attended staging rehearsals.[182]

Patrice Chéreau

For the centenary Ring in Bayreuth, Boulez originally asked Ingmar Bergman then Peter Brook to direct, both of whom refused. Peter Stein initially agreed but withdrew in 1974.[183] Patrice Chéreau, who was primarily a theatre director, accepted and went on to create one of the defining opera productions of modern times, helping to usher in the era of Regietheater. He treated the story in part as an allegory of capitalism, drawing on ideas that George Bernard Shaw explored in The Perfect Wagnerite in 1898.[92] He updated the action to the 19th and 20th centuries, using imagery of the industrial age, and he achieved an unprecedented degree of naturalism in the singers' performances. Boulez's conducting was no less controversial, emphasising continuity, flexibility and transparency over mythic grandeur and weight.[184] In its first year the production was greeted with noisy hostility by the conservative audience, and a core of around thirty orchestral musicians refused to work with Boulez in subsequent seasons.[185] Both production and musical realisation grew in stature over the following four years and by the end of the final cycle in 1980 they received a 45-minute ovation.[161] Boulez worked with Chéreau again on Berg's Lulu in Paris (1979) and Janáček's From the House of the Dead in Vienna (2007).

His other preferred director was Peter Stein. Of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande Boulez had written: "I don't like the French tradition of sweetness and gentleness ... [the work] is not gentle at all, but cruel and mysterious."[186] Stein realised that vision in his staging for WNO in 1992, John Rockwell describing it as "an abstract, angry Pelléas, one perhaps over-intent on emphasizing the score's links to modernity".[187] David Stevens described their 1995 production of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron in Amsterdam as "theatrically and musically thrilling."[188]

From the mid-1960s Boulez spoke of composing an opera himself. His attempts to find a librettist were unsuccessful: "both times the writer has died on me, so I'm a bit superstitious about looking for a third candidate".[71] From the late 1960s he exchanged ideas with the radical French playwright and novelist Jean Genet and parts of a draft libretto were found among Genet’s papers after his death in 1986.[189] In the 1980s he discussed with Patrice Chéreau an adaptation of Genet’s 1961 play Les Paravents (The Screens), which was planned for the 1989 opening of the Opéra Bastille in Paris, but this too came to nothing.[190] He then turned to the German playwright Heiner Müller, who was working on a reduction of Aeschylus's The Oresteia for Boulez when he died in 1995, again without leaving anything usable. In a 1996 interview Boulez said that he was thinking of Edward Bond's The War Plays or Lear, “but only thinking.” [71] When news emerged in 2010 that he was working on an opera based on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, few believed such an ambitious undertaking could be realised so late in the day.[189]


Boulez's first recordings date from his time with the Domaine musical in the late 1950s and early 1960s and were made for the French Vega label. They document his first thoughts on works which he would subsequently re-record (such as Varèse's Intégrales and Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony No.1), as well as pieces to which he did not return in the studio (such as Stravinsky's Renard and Stockhausen's Zeitmaße). They also include two of his five recordings of Le marteau sans maÎtre (with contraltos Marie-Thérèse Cahn in 1956 and Jeanne Deroubaix in 1964). In 2015 Universal Music brought together the recordings from this period in a 10-CD set.[191]

Arnold Schoenberg by Egon Schiele (1917) Between 1966 and 1989 he recorded for Columbia Records (later Sony Classical). Among the first projects were the Paris Wozzeck (with Walter Berry) and the Covent Garden Pelléas et Mélisande (with George Shirley and Elisabeth Söderström). He made a highly-praised recording of Le sacre du printemps with the Cleveland Orchestra and a number of recordings with the London Symphony Orchestra, including rarities such as Berlioz's Lélio and the first complete recording of Mahler's Das klagende Lied. The LSO also contributed to the Webern edition which Boulez supervised, consisting of all the works with opus numbers. When he took up his posts with the New York Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras, and later the Ensemble Intercontemporain, most recordings were made with them. One of the outstanding achievements of the Columbia years was a wide-ranging survey of the music of Schoenberg, including Gurrelieder, Moses und Aron, Erwartung and Pierrot lunaire, but also less well-known works such as Die Jakobsleiter and the unaccompanied choral music. As for Boulez's own music, there were two further recordings of Le marteau sans maÎtre (with Yvonne Minton in 1972 and Elisabeth Laurence in 1985), a first recording of Pli selon pli (with Halina Łukomska as soprano soloist) and recordings of Rituel and Éclat/Multiples. In 2014 Sony Classical issued Pierre Boulez—The Complete Columbia Album Collection on 67 CDs.[192]

Three major operatic projects from this period were picked up by other labels: the Bayreuth Ring was released on video and LP by Philips; the Bayreuth Parsifal and Paris Lulu were recorded for Deutsche Grammophon.

In the 1980s he also recorded for the Erato label, mostly with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, with a greater emphasis on the music of his contemporaries (Berio, Ligeti, Carter, Donatoni, Xenakis and Kurtág). There was a Stravinsky cycle—including his only recordings of the complete Pulcinella and The Soldier's Tale—as well as a survey of some of his own music, including a second recording of Pli selon pli (with Phyllis Bryn-Julson as soloist) and recordings of Le visage nuptial, Le soleil des eaux and Figures, Double, Prismes. In 2015 Erato issued Pierre Boulez—The Complete Erato Recordings on 14 CDs.[193]

From 1991 onwards Boulez recorded under an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. It centred on the orchestras of Chicago and Cleveland in the United States and Vienna and Berlin in Europe.[194] He re-recorded much of his core repertoire—the orchestral music of Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky and Bartok—and oversaw a second Webern edition, extending this time to the unpublished works. HIs own late music featured prominently, including Répons, ...explosante-fixe... and Sur Incises. There was a fifth recording of Le marteau sans maÎtre (with Hilary Summers in 2002) and a third of Pli selon pli (with Christine Schäfer) in its definitive version, incorporating major revisions made in the late 1980s. Composers new to his discography included Richard Strauss, Szymanowski and Anton Bruckner—his recording of the Eighth Symphony met with particular acclaim.[195] The most significant addition to his recorded repertoire was the multi-orchestra cycle of the Mahler symphonies and vocal works with orchestra. It began with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a 1994 studio recording of the Sixth Symphony and ended with the same orchestra in a live recording from the 2011 Salzburg Festival of Das klagende Lied (this time omitting Waldmärchen). Coupled with Berg's Lulu-Suite, it was his final recording.

All of Boulez's recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have been collected into boxed sets of CDs. In 2015 DG issued a 44-CD set Boulez—20th Century for his 90th birthday. DVDs of two opera productions are also available on DG: the WNO Pelléas et Mélisande and the Vienna From the House of the Dead.

In addition, many hundreds of concerts conducted by Boulez are held in the archives of radio stations and orchestras. Occasional releases provide a glimpse of the wealth of material they contain. In 2005, for example, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra released a 2-CD set of broadcasts by Boulez, focussing in particular on works which he had not otherwise recorded, including Janáček's Glagolitic Mass, the suite from Debussy's Le martyre de Saint Sébastien and Messiaen's L'ascension.[196]


"Boulez writes for reasons that are alternately polemical and intellectual: because of his desire to wage war upon the animosity and musical philistinism to be found in professional circles, and because writing was a parallel creative activity to composition, offering a mirror—a kind of testing ground—for the concepts he was seeking to define." Dominique Jameux.[197]

Boulez has been called an articulate, perceptive and sweeping writer on music.[198] He wrote on questions of technique and aesthetics in a reflective if sometimes elliptical manner. These writings have mostly been republished under the titles Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, Orientations: Collected Writings, and Boulez on Music Today, as well as in the journal of the Darmstadt composers, Die Reihe. A third edition of the French texts, with previously uncollected material, appeared under the title Points de repère I, II, and III.[199] Two interviews with Pierre Boulez were published in 2007 and 2008.[200]


In December 2001, not long after the attack on the World Trade Center, police entered Boulez’s hotel room in the Swiss town of Basel and confiscated his passport. It appeared his name was on their database of terrorist suspects not, as some speculated, because of his remarks in the 1960s about blowing up opera houses, but because in 1995 a Swiss music critic who had written a bad review of a Boulez concert received a threatening call (including a reference to bombs) from someone using Boulez's name. A police spokesman apologized and expressed the hope that it would not stop Boulez returning to Basel: “I understand a lot of Swiss like his music.” [201]

Boulez met American singer-songwriter Paul Simon and his then-wife Peggy at a party in New York, where he mistakenly referred to Paul as "Al" and to Peggy as "Betty", giving Simon the idea for the song You Can Call Me Al, his biggest solo hit.[202][203]

The British satirical magazine Private Eye appropriated his name for the byline on one of its regular columns, Music and Musicians. Lunchtime O'Boulez has been spreading gossip about the classical music world since the 1970s.[127]

Selected compositionsEdit

Main article: List of compositions by Pierre Boulez Piano Sonata No. 1 (1946) Le visage nuptial (soprano, alto, female chorus and orchestra, 1946/51/88–89) Piano Sonata No. 2 (1947–48) Le soleil des eaux (soprano solo, mixed choir, orchestra, 1948/50/58/65) Livre pour quatuor (string quartet, 1948–49, rev. 2011–12) Polyphonie X (1951) Structures, Livres I et II (2 pianos, 1952 and 1961, respectively) Le marteau sans maître (alto, alto flute, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, percussion and viola, 1953–55) Piano Sonata No. 3 (1955–57/63 ...) (Unfinished: only two of the five movements have been published in final form.) Pli selon pli (soprano and orchestra, 1957–89) Figures, doubles, prismes (large orchestra, 1957–68) Éclat/Multiples (ensemble, 1965–70) Domaines (clarinet solo, 1968–69) Domaines (clarinet and ensemble, 1968–69) Cummings ist der Dichter (for chorus and ensemble, 1970) Ainsi parla Zarathoustra, incidental music (1974) Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna (orchestra, 1974–75) Messagesquisse (seven cellos, 1976–77), See also: Paul Sacher § "eSACHERe"

Notations (piano version 1945, orchestral version 1978/1999–...) Répons (two pianos, harp, vibraphone, glockenspiel, cimbalom, orchestra and electronics, 1980–84) Dialogue de l'ombre double (for clarinet and electronics, 1982–85) Dérive 1 (for six instruments, 1984) Dérive 2 (for eleven instruments, 1988–2006) ...explosante-fixe... (first version for flute, clarinet and trumpet, 1972; second version for octet and electronics, 1973–74; third version for vibraphone and electronics, 1985; fourth version for MIDI-flute, chamber orchestra and electronics, 1991–93) Sur Incises (3 pianos, 3 harps and 3 percussion parts, 1996–98) Dialogue de l'ombre double (transcribed for bassoon and electronics, 1985/1995) Anthèmes 2 (violin and electronics, 1998) Une page d'éphéméride (piano, 2005)

Decorations and awardsEdit

26 Grammy Awards Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France) Member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts Merit Cross 1st Class of the Federal Republic of Germany Pour le Mérite (Germany) Sanford Medal (Yale University)[204] 1963: Member of the Academy of Arts Berlin 1976: Prix France-Allemagne 1979: Ernst von Siemens Music Prize (Germany) 1979: Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) 1983: Austrian Decoration for Science and Art[205] 1985: Léonie Sonning Music Prize (Denmark) 1989: Praemium Imperiale (Japan Art Association) 1990: Gold Medal of Vienna 1992: Theodor W. Adorno Award 1995: Artist of the Year by the British music magazine The Gramophone 1995: Ceremony at the Victoires de la Musique in France 1995: German Record Critics' Award 1996: Berlin Art Prize 1996: Polar Music Prize (Sweden) 1997: Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal 2000: Wolf Prize (Israel) 2001: Grand Cross of the Order of Saint James of the Sword 2001: University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, for Sur Incises (United States)[206] 2002: Glenn Gould Prize (Canada) 2004: Golden Medal of Honour of Baden-Baden 2005: Fellowship of BASCA 2008: Franco-German cultural award 2009: Kyoto Prize (arts and philosophy) 2010: Edison Award (classical music) (Netherlands) 2011: Colburn Prize 2011: Giga-Hertz-Prize 2011: Medal of Salzburg 2012: Gramophone Hall of Fame entrant[207] 2012: Robert Schumann Prize for Poetry and Music (Academy of Sciences and Literature, Mainz) 2012: The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Contemporary Music category 2014: The Cleveland Orchestra Distinguished Service Award


Aguila, Jesus.1992. Le domaine musical, Pierre Boulez et vingt ans de creation contemporaine. Paris: Librairie Arthème Fayard. ISBN 2-213-02952-0. Anon. 2008. Pierre Boulez—Every Composer Chooses His Fathers. In Talking to Kinky and Karlheinz—170 Musicians Get Vocal on the Music Show, edited by Anni Heino, 254–62. Sydney: ABC Books. ISBN 978-0-7333-2008-8. Barbedette, Sarah (ed.). 2015. Pierre Boulez [Catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée de la musique in Paris, 17 March to 28 June 2015]. Paris: Actes Sud. ISBN 978-2-330-04796-2. Barrault, Jean-Louis. 1974. Memories for Tomorrow, translated by Jonathan Griffin. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-01086-2. Barulich, Frances. 1988. [Review of recently published books by and about Boulez, including Boulez 1981, Glock 1986 etc.]. Notes 2nd series, 45, no. 1 (September): 48–52. Bennett, Gerald. The Early Works. In Pierre Boulez: A Symposium, edited by William Glock, 41-84. London: Eulenburg Books; New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-903873-12-5. Blaustein, Susan. 1989. "The Survival of Aesthetics: Books by Boulez, Delio, Rochberg". Perspectives of New Music 27, no. 1 (Winter): 272–303. Boulez, Pierre. 1971. Boulez on Music Today, translated by Susan Bradshaw and Richard Rodney Bennett. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-08006-8; London: Faber. ISBN 0-571-09420-1 Boulez, Pierre. 1976. Conversations with Célestin Deliège, forward by Robert Wangermée. London: Ernst Eulenburg Ltd. ISBN 0 903873 21 4 (hbk.); ISBN 0 903873 22 2 (pbk.). Boulez, Pierre and Patrice Chéreau, Richard Peduzzi, Jacques Schmidt. 1980. Histoire d'un Ring with additional texts by Sylvie de Nussac and François Regnault. Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont. ISBN 2-253-02853-3. Boulez, Pierre 1981. Orientations: Collected Writings, collected and edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez, translated by Martin Cooper. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-64376-3. New edition, translated by Martin Cooper from the second French edition of Points de repère, London and Boston: Faber & Faber, 1986. ISBN 0-571-13811-X (cased); ISBN 0-571-13835-7 (pbk). Boulez, Pierre. 1986. "Sonate, que me veux-tu?" (1960). In his Orientations: Collected Writings, translated by, 143–154. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-14347-4. Boulez, Pierre and John Cage. 1990. Correspondence et documents, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez with Françoise Davoine, Hans Oesch and Robert Piencikowski. Basel: Amadeus Verlag. ISBN 3-905049-37-6. Boulez, Pierre. 1991a. "Schoenberg is Dead" (1952). In his Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, collected and presented by Paule Thévenin, translated by Stephen Walsh, with an introduction by Robert Piencikowski, 209–14. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-311210-8 Boulez, Pierre. 1991b. "Possibly..." (1952). In his Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, collected and presented by Paule Thévenin, translated by Stephen Walsh, with an introduction by Robert Piencikowski, 111–40. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-311210-8 Boulez, Pierre. 1991c. "Alea" (1957). In his Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship, collected and presented by Paule Thévenin, translated by Stephen Walsh, with an introduction by Robert Piencikowski, 26–38. Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-311210-8 Boulez, Pierre. 1995. Points de repère. I: Imaginer, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez and Sophie Galaise, with the collaboration of Robert Piecikowski. Musique/passé/présent. Paris: Bourgois. Boulez, Pierre. 2005a. Points de repère. II: Regards sur autrui, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez and Sophie Galaise. Musique/passé/présent. Paris: Bourgois. Boulez, Pierre. 2005b. Points de repère. III: Leçons de musique: Deux décennies d'enseignement au Collège de France, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez, preface by Jonathan Goldman, foreword by Michel Fouculta. Musique/passé/présent. Paris: Bourgois. Boulez, Pierre, and Dan Albertson. 2007. ". . . 'ouvert', encore . . .". Contemporary Music Review 26, nos. 3–4 (June–August): 339–40. Burnham, Scott G. "Beethoven, Ludwig van, §19: Posthumous influence and reception (iii) Political reception.", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy. (Subscription access). Cox, Christoph, and Daniel Warner. 2004. Audio Culture: Reading in Modern Music.[full citation needed] Di Pietro, Rocco. 2001. Dialogues with Boulez. Lanham, Md.:The Scarecrow Press, Inc. ISBN 0-8108-3932-6 Ewen, David. 1971. "Pierre Boulez". In David Ewen, Composers of Tomorrow's Music: A Non-technical Introduction to the Musical Avant-garde Movement, 78–93. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co. ISBN 0-396-06286-5 Gilly, Cécile. 2003. Boulez on Conducting. Conversations with Cécile Gilly, translated by Richard Stokes. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-21967-5. Glock, William. 1991. Notes in Advance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816192-1. Griffiths, Paul. 1973. "Two Pianos: Boulez, Structures, Book 2". The Musical Times 114, no. 1562 (April): 390. Griffiths, Paul. 1978. Boulez (Oxford Studies of Composers). London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-315442-0. Griffiths, Paul. 1995. Modern Music and After: Directions Since 1945. London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-816578-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-19-816511-0 (pbk) Harvey, Jonathan. 1971. "A Clear View". Musical Times 112, no. 1540 (June): 557. Häusler, Josef (ed.). 1985. Pierre Boulez: Eine Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag am 26. März 1985. Vienna: Universal Edition. ISBN 3-7024-0177-6. Hayes, Malcolm. 1992. Review of Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship by Pierre Boulez; Stephen Walsh. Tempo new series, no. 180 (Mar. 1992): 29–30. Heinemann, Stephen. 1993. "Pitch-Class Set Multiplication in Boulez's Le marteau sans maître". DMA thesis. Seattle: University of Washington. Heinemann, Stephen. 1998. "Pitch-Class Set Multiplication in Theory and Practice". Music Theory Spectrum 20, no. 1 (Spring): 72–96. Abstract (accessed 17 June 2008) Heyworth, Peter. The First Fifty Years. In Pierre Boulez: A Symposium, edited by William Glock, 3-40. London: Eulenburg Books; New York: Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-903873-12-5. Hill, Peter and Nigel Simeone. 2005. Messiaen. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10907-5. Hopkins, G. W., and Paul Griffiths. 2011. "Boulez, Pierre", Grove Music Online, ed. Deane Root (accessed 6 January 2016). (Subscription access) Humbertclaude, Eric. 1999. La Transcription dans Boulez et Murail : de l'oreille à l'éveil, Paris: Harmattan. ISBN 2-7384-8042-X Iddon, Martin. 2013. New Music at Darmstadt. Nono, Stockhausen, Cage, and Boulez. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-03329-0. Jameux, Dominique. 1991. Pierre Boulez, translated by Susan Bradshaw. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-66740-9 London: Faber. ISBN 0-571-13744-X. Jampol, Joshua. 2010. Living Opera. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-538138-2. Kenyon, Nicholas. 1981. The BBC Symphony Orchestra, 1930–1980. London: British Broadcasting Corporation. ISBN 0-563-17617-2. Koblyakov, Lev. 1977. "P. Boulez Le marteau sans maître: Analysis of Pitch Structure". Zeitschrift für Musiktheorie 8, no. 1:24–39. Koblyakov, Lev. 1981. "The World of Harmony of Pierre Boulez: Analysis of Le marteau sans maître". Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Koblyakov, Lev. 1990. Pierre Boulez: A World of Harmony. Contemporary Music Studies 2. Chur, Switzerland, and New York: Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 3-7186-0422-1 Ligeti, György. 1960. "Pierre Boulez: Decision and Automatism in Structure Ia." Die Reihe 4 (Young Composers): 36–62. (Translated from the original German edition of 1958.) McNamee, Ann K. 1992. "Are Boulez and Stockhausen Ready for the Mainstream? A Review". Musical Quarterly 76, no. 2:283–91. |doi:10.1093/mq/76.2.283 Meïmoun, François. 2010. Entretien avec Pierre Boulez—la naissance d'un compositeur. Château-Gontier, France: Aedem Musicae. ISBN 978-2-919046-00-3. Mosch, Ulrich. 1997. "Wahrnehmungsweisen serieller Musik". Musiktheorie 12:61–70. Mosch, Ulrich. 2004. Musikalisches Hören serieller Musik: Untersuchungen am Beispiel von Pierre Boulez' Le marteau sans maître. Saarbrücken: Pfau-Verlag. ISBN 3-89727-253-9 Obrist, Hans Ulrich, and Philippe Parreno. 2008. "An Interview with Pierre Boulez". In Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture, edited by Paul D. Miller, a.k.a. DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid, 361–74. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-63363-5 Olivier, Philippe. 2005. Pierre Boulez: Le maître et son marteau. Collection points d'orgue. Paris: Hermann, éditeurs des sciences et des arts. ISBN 2-7056-6531-5. Orton, Richard, and Hugh Davies. 2001. "Ondes martenot". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers. Peyser, Joan. 1976. Boulez: Composer, Conductor, Enigma. New York: Schirmer Books. ISBN 0-02-871700-7; London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-29901-4 Peyser, Joan. 1999. To Boulez and Beyond: Music in Europe Since the Rite of Spring, with a preface by Charles Wuorinen. New York: Billboard Books. ISBN 0-8230-7875-2. Revised edition, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-8108-5877-0 Ponsonby, Robert. 2009. Musical Heroes, A Personal View of Music and the Musical World Over Sixty Years. London: Giles de la Mare Publishers Limited. ISBN 9781900357296. Rosenberg, Donald. 2000. The Cleveland Orchestra Story, "Second to None". Cleveland, Ohio: Gray and Company, Publishers. ISBN 1-886228-24-8. Samuel, Claude. 1976. Conversations with Olivier Messiaen, translated by Felix Apprahamian. London: Stainer and Bell. ISBN 0-85249-308-8. Samuel, Claude (ed.). 1986. Eclats / Boulez. Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou. ISBN 2-85850-342-7. Samuel, Claude (ed.). 2002. Eclats 2002. Paris: Mémoire du Livre. ISBN 2-913867-14-6. Steenhuisen, Paul. 2009. "Interview with Pierre Boulez". In Sonic Mosaics: Conversations with Composers Edmonton: University of Alberta Press. ISBN 978-0-88864-474-9 Steinegger, Catherine. 2012. Pierre Boulez et le théâtre. Wavre (Belgium): Éditions Mardaga. ISBN 978-2-8047-0090-4 Vermeil, Jean. 1996. Conversations with Boulez: Thoughts on Conducting. Translated by Camille Nash, with a selection of programs conducted by Boulez and a discography by Paul Griffiths. Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 1-57467-007-7 Wagner, Wolfgang. 1994. Acts. The Autobiography of Wolfgang Wagner. Translated by John Brownjohn. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-81349-8. Walsh, Stephen. 2006. Stravinsky: the Second Exile. France and America, 1934-1971. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0224060783.


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Search Commons Media from Commons Search Wikiquote Quotations from Wikiquote Search Wikibooks Textbooks from Wikibooks Search Wikiversity Learning resources from Wikiversity Search Wikidata Data from Wikidata Pierre Boulez at AllMusic The BBVA Foundations Frontiers of Knowledge laureate Pierre Boulez: Advice for musicians and/or thinkers.June 16, 2013 Press conference in Madrid at the BBVA Foundatión Heathquarters Andy Carvin, interviews Pierre Boulez, 1992 Photographic portrait of Pierre Boulez by Philippe Gontier Charles Amirkhanian Interviews Pierre Boulez , with Andrew Gerzso, 16 February 1986. "Speaking of Music" Excerpts from sound archives of Boulez's works. Two Interviews with Pierre Boulez by Bruce Duffie, 20 February 1986 and 26 October 1987