Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Pierre Boulez

Le Maître Pierre Boulez has died, age 90. He was an immeasurably important composer, conductor, and teacher. His music, of immense complexity and intellectual rigor, could still be magnificently beautiful.

I saw him conduct a varied Rug Concert at the NY Phil in the 1970s, and his own sur Incises at the Ernest Fleischmann memorial concert five years ago. It was as gorgeous with Matthias Pintscher and the Boulez-founded Ensemble Intercontemporaine in Berkeley last year. For me, there's no better work to remember him by.

Media roundup of obits and memorials to follow.


Robert Gordon said...

I'm grateful for having seen him several times over the decades -- obituaries seem to mention his connection to the Chicago and Cleveland orchestras but not his lesser but still significant presence in LA. Some that come to mind are Repons in the UCLA basketball stadium (I went twice), an unusual but very beautiful Mahler 9 in Royce Hall, and especially ...explosante-fixe... at the Ojai festival.

Also, there was an LA Phil event in the Music Center Pavilion, where he came out and announced an addition to the program in honor of a benefactor who had recently passed away. Hearing Pierre Boulez conduct Mozart's Masonic Funeral Music in honor of Danny Kaye was one of the more unlikely events of my concert-going life.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think that 2011 trip to LA might have been his last to the US, not sure.

That is amazingly charming about Danny Kaye.

Henry Holland said...

Sad news, but not unexpected given reports of his recent health issues.

I know he gets chided for being a "cold and clinical" conductor in the standard rep, but I loved the clarity of texture and rhythmic precision he could achieve. He was known for being able to detect a fourth clarinet being slightly out of tune.

I was glad he took on works by two of my favorites, Szymanowski and Scriabin, late in his recording career. It would have been unthinkable that he would have conducted them in his "blow up the opera houses" period, but he did a typically fine job with them. I love his recordings of Birtwistle's music, his recording of the great Earth Dances is the finest I've heard. I wish he would have conducted his operas, he would have been great with The Second Mrs. Kong and especially The Mask of Orpheus.

I missed those 2011 LAP concerts due to poverty, I'm really sorry I missed them. I heard him conduct his own music in the 90's (?), it was phenomenal.

I'm not a fan of the early total serialism stuff, but things like Pli Selon Pli, Rituel - In Memoriam Bruno Madern, Sur Incises and especially Repons are favorites. He talked for ages about composing an opera based on Waiting for Godot, but alas.

RIP Pierre Boulez.