Pierre Boulez, 1925-2016

As a composer, conductor, musicologist and writer on music Pierre Boulez is a prominent innovator of the arts in the twentieth century. He can be seen as the musical icon of modernism.
His creations are integrating most important musical traditions of Western Europe
combining influences from Debussy, Messiaen, Mahler and Schönberg.
The works of Pierre Boulez are connecting the central characteristics of French and German styles and methods that dominating European music history during the age of western civilization.

When Boulez starts writing music at the end of the forties he is presenting manifold unusual sound. However at the beginning the intensity of his sound world and the technics of serialism might have been rather frightening to the public, in retrospect one can easily look into his strong guiding function in the music of modern times, continuously renewing structures and expressions, in close connection with developments in the other art-disciplines.

He is transforming and reshaping standard music perception as well as the ways of presentation, permanently looking for new forms of expression, discovering new instruments in ethnological as well as electronic sources.

At the seventies together with Stravinsky, Klee and Picasso, Pierre Boulez is one of the most important creative personalities of the time. Being a conductor of the most famous orchestras he brings about striking renewals in the interpretation of the usual musical repertory from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, starting along with the Mahler-symphonies. Working on this, by changing usual forms of transmission, he implicitly criticizes general conceptions of musical tradition. By changing usual interpretations he is, in a sense, renewing the past as a source in function of the contemporary art.

Conducting his own compositions he delivers a gigantic production of musical representation. Being himself a contemporary of the developing technical means of modern times, he takes the opportunity to adapt and create those himself in his own purpose. By consequence his output in production and media registration is the most extended ever made by a conductor and director of his own works.

Apart from his impressive activities as a composer and conductor Pierre Boulez is the author of a large essayistic oeuvre on musical themes, in which connections between music and the other contemporary arts are playing a major role. These large output of texts about music and the arts is of fundamental significance in consideration of the general development of musical expression of modernism. In the meanwhile it has become very clear that with Boulez the esthetic world we are living in has been changed fundamentally to the extend that the concept of beauty in the arts has been severely transformed.

The project on the ninetieth anniversary of Pierre Boulez is about creative integration by means of the intermediality and interdisciplinarity in which the artwork of Boulez is appearing to us. The project wants to demonstrate the work by actual methodological and interartistic forms of representation, stage presentations and conferences. This concerns some works of Boulez himself as well as combinations with the visual arts he made use of and registrations on film and video.

Curriculum vitae
Pierre Boulez was born in 1925 in Montbrison, France. He first studied mathematics, then music at the Paris Conservatory (CNSM), where his teachers included Olivier Messiaen and René Leibowitz. In 1954, with the support of Jean-Louis Barrault, he founded the Domaine musical in Paris – one of the first concert series dedicated entirely to the performance of modern music – and remained their director until 1967. Boulez began his conducting career in 1958 with the Südwestfunk Orchestra in Baden-Baden, Germany. From 1960 to 1962 he taught composition at the Music Academy in Basel. As a composer, conductor and teacher, Pierre Boulez has made a decisive contribution to the development of music in the 20th century and inspired generations of young musicians with his pioneering spirit. His recordings have earned him a total of 26 Grammys and vast numbers of other prestigious awards.

1966 Bayreuth debut with Parsifal, returning to conduct it again in 1967, 1968 and 1970
1967 Named principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra (until 1972)
1969 Conducts new production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande at Covent Garden
1971 Appointed principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (until 1975) and music director of the New York Philharmonic (until 1977); release of his first Deutsche Grammophon recording: Parsifal, from the 1970 Bayreuth Festival
1976 Music director of the 100th-anniversary production of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth; returns to conduct the cycle again at the next four festivals
1977 From now until his resignation as director in 1992, he devotes himself to the newly created Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and founds the Ensemble intercontemporain (EIC)
1989 Signs a recording contract with Deutsche Grammophon which became exclusive in 1992
1995 Co-founder of the music centre Cité de la musique in Paris, he conducts the orchestra of the CNSM and the EIC in its opening concert with works by Mahler and Stravinsky; named principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; named “Artist of the Year” by Gramophone, and honoured on the occasion of his 70th birthday at the Victoires de la Musique in France
1997 Composition and première of Anthèmes 2 for violon solo and electronics
1999 Composer-in-Residence at Carnegie Hall until 2003
2000 Vast concert series celebrating his 75th birthday; Grammy Award for his work Répons
2001 Boulez’s ultimate realization of his Pli selon pli, with soprano Christine Schäfer and the EIC, and the following year his latest Dérive 2 and early Le Marteau sans maître are recorded under his direction
2003 Tour of Japan and concerts in Lucerne with Boulez conducting the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra; becomes artistic director of the Lucerne Festival Academy
2004 Returns to Bayreuth conducting Parsifal
2005 In his 80th birthday year, amongst other celebrations, Boulez is appointed honorary member of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, named honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic, and honorary conductor of the Staatskapelle Berlin
2006 Appointed Conductor emeritus of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
2007 Highly acclaimed staging with Patrice Chéreau of Janácek’s From the House of the Dead
2008 “Grand invité” of the Louvre
2009 Composer-in-Residence at Salzburg’s Mozartwoche; following a concert tour to Chicago, returns to the U.S. in May, performing Mahler’s complete symphonic œuvre with Barenboim at Carnegie Hall; masterclass in conducting and performs Répons at the Lucerne Festival; awarded the Kyoto Prize
2010 85th-birthday-year concerts include the Chicago Symphony, MET and Cleveland orchestras, EIC (in Paris and on European tours), Orchestre de l’Opéra national de Paris, Orchestre de Paris, Vienna Philharmonic (with Carnegie Hall appearance), Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Berlin and Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble and Orchestra. To celebrate Boulez’s 85th birthday Deutsche Grammophon releases his first-ever Szymanowski recording featuring the composer’s popular Violin Concerto no. 1 and Symphony no. 3 “Song of the Night”; the Ravel Piano Concertos, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard; and Boulez’s complete Deutsche Grammophon Stravinsky recordings as a 6-CD box-set
2011 Starts with a sabbatical devoted to composition until early summer; conducts and records the Liszt piano concertos with Barenboim, then Mahler’s Das klagende Lied with the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg; again directs the Lucerne Festival Academy, before conducting his major work, Pli selon pli, on tour; in November receives the German Giga-Hertz Award for his electronic music
2012 Conducts a Mozart/Schönberg/Stravinsky program with Mitsuko Uchida and the Vienna Philharmonic at the Mozartwochen in Salzburg. Again directing the Lucerne Festival Academy. Receives the Gold Lion at the Venice Biennale and is the first recipient of the newly created Robert-Schumann Prize for poetry and music. Is honored with the Karol Szymanowski Price given by the Karol Szymanowski Foundation and the Gloria Artis Gold Medal of the Polish Ministry of culture.
2013 Recipient of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award. Continues to direct the Lucerne Festival Academy
2014 Director of the Lucerne Festival Academy(Source: Deutsche Grammophon, 2014)
List of compositions by Pierre Boulez

  • Douze notations for piano (1945); expanded and reworked for orchestra (1978–)
  • Trois psalmodies for piano (1945); withdrawn
  • Variations for piano, left hand (1945); withdrawn
  • Quatuor pour quatre Ondes Martenot for Ondes Martenot (1945–46); withdrawn
  • Piano Sonata No. 1 (1946)
  • Sonatine for flute and piano (1946)
  • Le visage nuptial for soprano, mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra (1946; revised 1951; revised 1988–89)
  • Symphonie concertante for piano and orchestra (1947); lost
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 (1948)
  • Sonata for Two Pianos for piano duo (1948); revision of the quartet for Ondes Martenot; withdrawn
  • Livre pour quatuor (1948); two movements were reworked for string orchestra as Livre pour cordes (1968; revised 1989; revised 2011/12)
  • Le soleil des eaux for soprano, chorus and orchestra (1948; revised 1950; revised 1958; revised 1965)
  • Polyphonie X for ensemble (1950–51); withdrawn
  • Deux études, musique concrète (1951–52)
  • Structures I for two pianos (1951–52)
  • Oubli signal lapidé for 12 solo voices (1952); withdrawn
  • Le marteau sans maître for alto and six instruments (1953–55; revised 1957)
  • La symphonie mécanique musique concrète for a film by Jean Mitry (1955)
  • L’Orestie incidental music for Aeschylus’ trilogy the Oresteia, for voice and instrumental ensemble (1945)
  • Poésie pour pouvoir for tape and 3 orchestras (1955/58); withdrawn
  • Piano Sonata No. 3 (1955-57/63); unfinished
  • Strophes for flute (1957); unfinished
  • Le crépuscule de Yang Koueï-Fei musique concrète for the radiophonic play by Louise Fauré (1957)
  • Pli selon pli for soprano and orchestra (1957–58, as Improvisations sur Mallarmé 1–2; completed 1959–62; revised 1983; revised 1989)
  • Structures II for two pianos (1961)
  • Figures-doubles-prismes for orchestra (1957–58, as Doubles; revised 1964; revised 1968)
  • Éclat for ensemble (1965)
  • Éclat/multiples (1970); Éclat followed by a longer piece for a larger ensemble; unfinished
  • Domaines for clarinet (1968)
  • Domaines for clarinet and six instrumental groups (1968)
  • Improvisé—pour le Dr. Kalmus for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello (1969; revised 2005)
  • Über das, über ein verschwindelaren for mixed a cappella chorus (1969)
  • Cummings ist der Dichter for chorus and ensemble (1970; revised 1986)
  • “…explosante-fixe…” for flute, clarinet, and trumpet (1971–72)
  • “…explosante-fixe…” new version for flute, clarinet, trumpet, harp, vibraphone, violin, viola, cello, and electronics (1973–74)
  • Rituel – in memoriam Bruno Maderna for orchestra in eight groups (1974)
  • Ainsi parla Zarathoustra incidental music for voice and ensemble (1974)
  • Messagesquisse for solo cello and six cellos (1976)
  • Notations for orchestra (1978/1984/1997– )
  • Répons for two pianos, harp, vibraphone, xylophone, cimbalom, ensemble and live electronics (1980; revised and expanded 1982; revised and expanded 1984)
  • Dérive 1 for six instruments (1984)
  • Dialogue de l’ombre double for clarinet and electronics (1985)
  • Mémoriale (“…explosante-fixe…” originel) for flute and ensemble (1985); an arrangement of the central section from “…explosante-fixe…”
  • “…explosante-fixe…” version for vibraphone and electronics (1986)
  • Initiale for brass ensemble (1987)
  • Dérive 2 for eleven instruments (1988; revised 2002; expanded and completed 2006)
  • Anthèmes for violin (1991; revised and expanded 1994)
  • Fanfare for the 80th Birthday of Georg Solti for brass and percussion (1992)
  • “…explosante-fixe…” for solo MIDI flute, two “shadow” flutes, chamber orchestra, and electronics (1991–93); three of nine projected movements
  • Incises for piano (1994; revised and expanded 2001)
  • Dialogue de l’ombre double (transcribed for bassoon and electronics, 1985/1995)
  • Anthèmes 2 for violin and live electronics (1997)
  • Sur incises for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists (1996–1998)
  • Une page d’éphéméride for piano (2005)