Pierre Boulez

Pierre Boulez is not only the most renowned French composer of his generation, but also a brilliant conductor and pianist, teacher, and author of articles and books about new music. After studying mathematics and music in Lyon, he moved to Paris in 1942, where he studied with Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatoire. In 1954, he founded the Concerts Marigny, a series of avantgarde concerts, later called Domaine Musical, that took place in Paris and were revolutionary in content and presentation.

At this time Boulez had already begun experimenting with serialism. He applied this technique, in which not only the 12 tones but also the pitches, durations and dynamics are systematically structured, in works like Structures I for two pianos (1951) and Le marteau sans maí®tre (The Hammer without A Master, after three poems by René Char. With the latter, which was first performed at the IGNM World Music Days in 1955, he won international recognition as a composer.

In Le marteau sans maí®tre, which deals with the relationship between music and words, had used a further developed, less strict form of serialism–and had started looking for other methods of composition, declaring that serialism had died of academism. (In 1995 he explained that "one made use of time, but no music was produced out of it.") New concepts, also using aleatory music, led to the composition of Pli selon pli (1960), Piano Sonata No. 3Eclat/Multiples for 25 instruments (1965-70) and Figures, Doubles, Prismes for orchestra (1957-63); in Poesie pour Pouvoir for three orchestras and tape after Henri Michaux (1958) and Rituel for eight orchestral groups (1974/75) he created a flexible, stereophonic sound concept. After researches at the IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustic/Music) he composed Répons for solo instruments, instrumental ensemble and live electronics (1980/84) and …explosante-fixe… for flutes and ensemble (1993), which also involves electro-acoustic realization. In recent years he has revised and re-orchestrated earlier works (e.g. Notations and Répons).

In 1995 Pierre Boulez was awarded the Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik (Germany) and named Artist of the Year by Gramophone Magazine.