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Summary Article: Boulez, Pierre
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

French composer and conductor. Hugely influential, he was the founder and director of IRCAM, a music research studio at the Pompidou Centre in Paris, which opened in 1977. His music, strictly adhering to ideas of serialism and expressionistic in style, includes the cantatas Le visage nuptial (1946) and Le Marteau sans maître (1953–55), both to texts by the poet René Char; Pli selon pli (1957–62) for soprano and orchestra; and Répons (1981–85) for soloists, orchestra, tapes, and computer-generated sounds. Among his many awards are 26 Grammys, making him one of the top winners of that award.

As a composer he belonged to the avant garde, writing in a style that has its roots in Debussy and Webern, and also in the ideas of James Joyce and Stéphane Mallarmé. He was one of the pioneers of integral serialism, but later introduced freer elements into his music. Boulez was also a leading conductor of advanced new music. He was principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971–75), and of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (1971–77), giving notable performances of works by Berg, Bartók, Stravinsky, and members of the Second Viennese School, including Schoenberg's Moses und Aron in London, England, in 1974. He conducted Wagner's operas Parsifal (1966) and The Ring (1976) at Bayreuth, and gave the first complete performance of Berg's opera Lulu in Paris in 1979.

His early works (including Flute Sonatina, Le visage nuptial, and the first two piano sonatas) are preoccupied with developments and extensions of Webern's serial technique. Structures (1952) for two pianos is a turning point in his development, taking account of the concepts of a series of durations, intensities, and timbres first proposed by Messiaen. Later works, such as Le marteau sans maître, the third piano sonata, and Pli selon pli develop these ideas with greater flexibility, eventually leading to the use of open forms (as in the third piano sonata) in which the order of musical material may be decided by the performer.

Boulez was born in Montbrison, on the River Loire. After abandoning studies in mathematics, he studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory and in 1946 took a course in serial technique with René Leibowitz. Also in 1946, he worked for the Renaud-Barrault theatre company and in 1953–54 founded the ‘Domaine Musical’ with Jean-Louis Barrault, which specialized in new music. He wrote Boulez on Music Today (1971).

WorksOrchestralNotations (1945, 1978, 1984–87); Figures – Doubles – Prismes (1963, 1968); Domaines for clarinet and orchestra (1968, 1969); Eclat/Multiples (1970); ... explosante fixe .. (1971–73, 1991, 1993); Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna (1974–75, 1987); Répons for 24 players, six instrumental soloists, and computerized electronics (1981).

VocalLe Soleil des eaux for solo voices, chorus, and orchestra (after Char); Le marteau sans maître for alto and six instruments (after Char; 1953–55); Pli selon pli for soprano and orchestra (after Mallarmé, 1957); Cummings ist der dichter for 16 solo voices and 24 instruments (1970, 1986); Répons for soloists, ensemble, and live electronics (1981–85.

InstrumentalNotations for piano (1945); Sonatine for flute and piano (1946); three piano sonatas (1946, 1948, 1957); Livre for string quartet (1948, revised for string orchestra 1968); Structures first Book for two pianos (1952); Structures second Book for two pianos (1961); Eclat for 15 instruments (1965, expanded as Eclat/Multiples for 27 instruments, 1966); Messagesquisse for viola solo and six violas (1976, 2000); Dialogue de l'ombre double for clarinet and tape (1984); Dérive for small ensemble (1984); Dérive II for 11 instruments (1988–2006, 2009); Incises for solo piano (1994, 2001); Sur Incises for three pianos, three harps, and three percussionists (1996, 1998, 2006); Anthèmes II for violin and live electronics (1997); Anthèmes II for viola and live electronics (1997, 2008).


Boulez, Pierre

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