Pierre Boulez


Born: March 26, 1925   Country: France   Period: 20th Century
Pierre Boulez (b. 1925), French composer, conductor, and music theorist, is regarded as a leading composer of the post-Webern serialist movement who also embraced elements of aleatory and electronics. As a child Boulez demonstrated a formidable aptitude in mathematics, but left for Paris in 1942 to enroll in the Paris Conservatoire. His studies there often ran into difficulties, as he was rapidly developing revolutionary -- "Praise be to amnesia" Read more -- attitudes towards all things traditional. But two decisive influences during those years helped to shape his musical personality. The first was Messiaen's famous analysis course, the other was René Leibowitz, who introduced him to serial music, where Boulez found "a harmonic and contrapuntal richness and a capacity for development an extension of a kind I have never found anywhere else."

By the late 1940s, Boulez began using a technique known as total serialization. A work which soon gave Boulez public notice was his Second Piano Sonata (1948), following a much publicized concert in Darmstadt in 1952 by Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen's wife. The piece from the 1950s that sealed his reputation was Le Marteau sans Maître from 1954 (revised in 1955), for singer and chamber ensemble. The instrumentation gives prominence to exotic percussion, extended vocal techniques, and textures that are often brittle but also lyrical. Rigorously organized, Le Marteau nonetheless goes beyond strict serialism to a more personal style. The premiere took place in Germany in 1955 under Hans Rosbaud. The Südwestfunk Radio underwrote an astounding 50 rehearsals in order that the piece be properly performed. During the latter 1950s he began allowing greater freedom for the performer in works like Improvisations sur Mallarmé for soprano and chamber ensemble. In his Third Piano Sonata (1957), the pianist can reorder the five movements in a variety of ways, and certain passages within the movements offer alternate paths, thereby making the artist select which to play and which to omit. In 1957, Boulez embarked on Pli Selon Pli, a work in five movements for soprano and orchestra to texts by Mallarmé, making use of a more restrained open-form technique. The middle movements are scored for sub-groups of the orchestra, balancing the larger forces of the outer movements. Boulez is also known for withdrawing and rewriting his compositions, making nearly everything he writes "a work in progress." For instance, ...explosante-fixe..., first sketched in 1971 has engendered a number of works and transitory phases over approximately twenty five years, including a 1996 version for Solo MIDI Flute and Chamber Ensemble. In 2000, he also received the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Composition for his forty minute chamber piece Sur Incises for three pianos, three harps, and three percussionists.

Boulez is also one of the twentieth century's most influential conductors, known for extraordinarily precise performances of contemporary works by Bartok, Ligeti, Messiaen, and Varése, among many others. In 1968 he was named Music Director of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic. In 1969, the Cleveland Orchestra named him Principal Guest Conductor. In 1970 French President Pompidou announced the experimental electronic music institute, Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) to be under Boulez's administration, eventually causing him to withdraw from the BBC and New York posts. In 1975, he formed the Ensemble Inter Contemporain, an ensemble devoted entirely to the performance of new music, including his own Repons (1980). He was also appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1995. As a conductor, Boulez has made many notable recordings; in 1996 he won a Grammy for his recording of Debussy's La Mer with the Cleveland Orchestra. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 89 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Charles Rosen - The Complete Columbia and Epic Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301476 Release Date: 12/02/2014   Number of Discs: 21
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Béla Bartók,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Georges Bizet  ... 
    Performer:  Charles Rosen,  Paul Jacobs,  Robert Casadesus,  Isaac Stern  ... 
    Conductor:  Frederik Prausnitz
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Pierre Boulez - The Complete Columbia Album Collection
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 301333 Release Date: 11/24/2014   Number of Discs: 67
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Alexander Scriabin,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Alban Berg  ... 
    Performer:  Karl Dönch,  Isabel Strauss,  Walter Berry,  Fritz Uhl  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Anton Webern
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Camerata Singers,  Schola Cantorum New York  ... 
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  • 3.
    Label: Harmonia Mundi   Catalog: 2908710 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  Francis Poulenc,  Maurice Ravel,  Erik Satie  ... 
    Performer:  Jean-Guihen Queyras,  Alexandre Tharaud,  Ronald Van Spaendonck,  Eric Le Sage  ... 
    Conductor:  Andrea Quinn
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  • 4.
    The New Music Vol 2 - Boulez, Haubenstock-Ramati, Maderna / Rome Symphony Orchestra
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 3266 Release Date: 03/18/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez,  Roman Haubenstock-Ramati,  Bruno Maderna,  Luigi Nono  ... 
    Performer:  Severino Gazzelloni,  Frederic Rzewski,  Lothar Faber
    Conductor:  Bruno Maderna
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Symphony Orchestra
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  • 5.
    12 Hommages Á Paul Sacher Pour Violoncelle / Demenga
    Label: Ecm   Catalog: 9445234 Release Date: 03/04/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Heinz Holliger,  Benjamin Britten,  Cristobal Halffter,  Witold Lutoslawski  ... 
    Performer:  Thomas Demenga,  Patrick Demenga,  Pierpaolo Toso,  Françoise Schiltknecht  ... 
    Conductor:  Jürg Wyttenbach
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  • 6.
    Erato - 50 CD Collection
    Label: Erato   Catalog: 46441 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Tomaso Albinoni,  Giuseppe Tartini,  Georg Philipp Telemann,  Giuseppe Torelli  ... 
    Performer:  Maurice André,  Pierre Pierlot,  Paul Hongne,  Jacques Chambon  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Jean-François Paillard,  Frigyes Sándor,  Kent Nagano  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ens.,  Paillard Chamber Orchestra,  Vienna Soloists  ... 
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  • 7.
    Boulez Conducts Boulez - Le Marteau Sans Maitre, Livre Pour Cordes / Minton
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 74930 Release Date: 10/15/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez
    Performer:  Yvonne Minton
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Musique Vivante,  New Philharmonia Strings
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  • 8.
    The Inner Time: Contemporary Music For Clarinet
    Label: Clarinet Classics   Catalog: 67 Release Date: 10/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Horatiu Radulescu,  Mihailo Trandafilovski,  Pierre Boulez,  Giacinto Scelsi
    Performer:  Roger Heaton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kreutzer String Quartet
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  • 9.
    Variations On A Theme By Scarlatti / Matan Porat
    Label: Mirare   Catalog: 213 Release Date: 10/08/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Domenico Scarlatti,  François Couperin,  Leos Janácek,  Felix Mendelssohn  ... 
    Performer:  Matan Porat
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  • 10.
    Idil Biret: LP Originals Edition 1959-1986 [14-CD Set]
    Label: Iba [idil Biret Archives]   Catalog: 8501402 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 14
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Johannes Brahms,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Béla Bartók  ... 
    Performer:  Idil Biret
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London String Quartet
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  • 11.
    Salzburg Festival Opening Concerts / Boulez, Barenboim, Harnoncourt
    Label: C Major   Catalog: 713608 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Béla Bartók,  Maurice Ravel,  Franz Schubert  ... 
    Performer:  Daniel Barenboim,  Klaus Florian Vogt,  Elina Garanca,  René Pape  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Nikolaus Harnoncourt,  Daniel Barenboim
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
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  • 12.
    ...avec un frisson - Late Piano Works of Debussy & Boulez / Yegor Shevtsov
    Label: New Focus   Catalog: 132 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez,  Claude Debussy
    Performer:  Yegor Shevtsov
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  • 13.
    Pierre Boulez: The Complete Works [13-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001836502 Release Date: 07/23/2013   Number of Discs: 13
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez
    Performer:  Sophie Cherrier,  Pierre-André Valade,  Emmanuelle Ophčle,  Pierre-Laurent Aimard  ... 
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez,  Diego Masson,  Roger Desormičre
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain,  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  BBC Singers  ... 
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  • 14.
    La Folie Francaise [4-CD Set]
    Label: Virgin Classics   Catalog: 356292 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Charles Valentin Alkan,  César Franck,  Camille Saint-Saëns  ... 
    Performer:  Barbara Hendricks,  David Fray,  Maggie Cole,  Philippe Dervaux  ... 
    Conductor:  Richard Hickox,  Michel Plasson,  Jean-Bernard Pommier
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quatuor Ebčne
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  • 15.
    Micromania: 85 Piano Miniatures
    Label: Tyx Art   Catalog: 12009 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Nielsen,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Hugo Distler,  Jean Sibelius  ... 
    Performer:  Matthias Veit
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  • 16.
    Essential 20th Century Classics
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 234372 Release Date: 01/22/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sergei Prokofiev,  Joaquin Rodrigo,  Aram Khachaturian,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Jacqueline Du Pré,  Cécile Ousset,  Peter Donohoe,  Stomu Yamashta  ... 
    Conductor:  André Previn,  Simon Rattle,  Yuri Temirkanov,  Sir John Barbirolli  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Modern
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  • 17.
    Boulez: Le Marteau Sans Maitre / Summers, Ensemble Intercontemporian
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001767202 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez
    Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain
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  • 18.
    Stephen Beville In Karlsruhe
    Label: Divine Art   Catalog: 25108 Release Date: 10/09/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frédéric Chopin,  Pierre Boulez,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Robert Schumann
    Performer:  Stephen Beville
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  • 19.
    Pierre-Laurent Aimard - The Warner Recordings
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 2564660448 Release Date: 09/25/2012   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Claude Debussy,  György Ligeti,  Olivier Messiaen,  Elliott Carter  ... 
    Performer:  Pierre-Laurent Aimard,  Sophie Cherrier,  Tabea Zimmermann,  Alexei Lubimov
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  • 20.
    Terrestre / Claire Chase
    Label: New Focus   Catalog: 122 Release Date: 03/27/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Kaija Saariaho,  Franco Donatoni,  Elliott Carter,  Pierre Boulez  ... 
    Performer:  Kivie Cahn-Lipman,  Claire Chase,  Nathan Davis,  Nuiko Wadden  ... 
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  • 21.
    Boulez: Memoriale, Derive 1, Derive 2 / Kawka, Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain
    Label: Naive   Catalog: 782183 Release Date: 02/28/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez
    Performer:  Fabrice Jünger
    Conductor:  Daniel Kawka
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain
    CD: $17.99
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  • 22.
    Earle Brown Contemporary Sound Series 4
    Label: Wergo   Catalog: 6937 Release Date: 02/14/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez,  Giacinto Scelsi,  Earle Brown,  Iannis Xenakis  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quatuor Parrenin,  Hamburg Chamber Soloists
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  • 23.
    Wanted - Boulez, Carter, Schaathun / Hakon Austbo
    Label: Norway Music   Catalog: 5071 Release Date: 01/31/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Pierre Boulez,  Elliott Carter,  Asbjorn Schaathun
    Performer:  Haakon Austbö,  Asbjorn Blokkum Flo
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  • 24.
    20th Century Collection / Maurizio Pollini
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001632502 Release Date: 12/20/2011   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Béla Bartók,  Claude Debussy,  Alban Berg,  Luigi Nono  ... 
    Performer:  Maurizio Pollini,  Slavka Taskova
    Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $39.99
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  • 25.
    2010 Salzburg Festival Opening Concert
    Label: C Major   Catalog: 706808 Release Date: 08/30/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Pierre Boulez,  Anton Bruckner
    Performer:  Daniel Barenboim,  René Pape,  Elina Garanca,  Klaus Florian Vogt  ... 
    Conductor:  Daniel Barenboim
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
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