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Boulez, Pierre

Born in 1925 in Montbrison, he studied with Olivier Messiaen, René Leibowitz, and Andrée Vaurabourg-Honegger. In 1946 he initiated the Domaine Musical concerts held at Jean-Louis Barrault’s theatre. The premiere of his Le Marteau sans maître at the International Society for Contemporary Music festival in BadenBaden (1955) proved a great success. In 1955–60, Boulez taught at the Darmstadt courses, where his Sonata no. 3 was performed in 1957.

Further important premieres took place in 1958 in Hamburg (including the Improvisation sur Mallarmé). In the 1960s, he began to focus more and more distinctly on conducting and teaching. From 1960, he conducted courses in music analysis, composition, and conducting in Basel, and from 1963 taught as a guest lecturer at Harvard University. In 1971–75 he was the principal conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra, in 1971–77 of New York Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1967–72 he also regularly led the Cleveland Orchestra. In 1975 he founded Ensemble intercontemporain, and in 1977, contributed to the opening of IRCAM, which had been planned for several years. In 1976 he conducted Patrice Chéreau’s Bayreuth production of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung for the first time. He was granted an honorary doctorate of Goethe University in Frankfurt (1991), the Theodor W. Adorno Award of the city of Frankfurt (1992), an honorary doctorate of Connecticut College (1998), the Ernst von Siemens Award (1979), and the Grawemayer Award (2001). His 75th anniversary in 2000 was celebrated in many capitals with concerts dedicated to his music, among others in London (a series of concerts by London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Boulez himself), New York, Paris, and Vienna. In the same year Pierre Boulez’s Répons won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and he received the Israeli Wolf Prize for the Arts. In 2001 Boulez inaugurated the Hungarian Year in France with a series of Bartók performances featuring, among others, Maurizio Pollini, Gil Shaham, and Ensemble intercontemporain. In 2002 he was composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival, where he still runs the annual Summer Academy for young musicians. He also taught conducting workshops and led concerts by BBC Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, and Ensemble intercontemporain. His recent accolades include the Kyoto Prize (2009), Golden Lion at the Biennale Musica in Venice (2012), and the Bach Prize of the City of Hamburg.


Major works: Sonatina for Flute and Piano (1946), 12 Notations for piano (1946), Piano Sonata no. 1 (1946), Structures I for two pianos (1952), Le Marteau sans maître for female voice and six instruments (1955), Piano Sonata no. 3 (1957), Pli selon pli, portrait de Mallarmé for soprano and orchestra (1958), Structures II for two pianos (1961), Figures – Doubles – Prismes for orchestra (1964), Éclat for orchestra (1965), Domaines for clarinet solo or with orchestra (1969), ...explosante–fixe... for ensemble and live electronics (1974, rev. 1993), Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna for orchestra (1975), Messagesquisse for solo cello and six cellos (1977), Notations I–IV for orchestra (1978), Répons for six soloists, chamber ensemble, computer sounds and live electronics (1981), Dérive 1 for ensemble (1984), Mémoriale (...explosante– fixe... Originel) for flute and chamber ensemble (1985), Anthèmes 1 for violin (1991–92), Incises for piano (1994/2001), sur Incises for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists (1996–98), Anthèmes 2 for violin and live electronics (1997), Notations VII for orchestra (1997), Une page d’éphéméride for piano (2005), Anthèmes 2, version for viola and live electronics (2008), Dérive 2 for 11 instruments (1988–2009).