Pierre Boulez (1925 – 2016)

The death of French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez was announced earlier today by the Philharmonie de Paris. Boulez was 90 when he died and had been ill for some time.

Here’s a round-up of some of the reports, blogs and reflections I’ve appreciated reading today. It’s by no means exhaustive and I will be adding to it over the next few days.

For the uninitiated, Classic FM has a Boulez primer which makes for an entertaining read. Amongst the pictures is a personal favourite: Boulez making a salad.

Tom Service writing for the Guardian has picked out 10 works by Boulez.

On Vulture, Justin Davidson wrote:

For my generation, and for several earlier and a couple of later ones, he [Boulez] was a prophetic figure — revered, resented, admired, and feared. In person, he always seemed mellower, and funnier, than his reputation suggested. Even when he was flicking away neoclassicism, neoromanticism — neo-anything, really — as lazy nostalgia, he did so with a distinctively wry tone. “This younger generation, they think the answer is to go back in history, but they don’t understand where it went wrong,” he told me. “You can protest against pollution, but the solution does not come from using horses.” (He evidently hadn’t spent time in Brooklyn.)

[ … ]

When I listen to Boulez, I hear not the workings of a logical mind but miniature solar storms and novas and wispy songs tossed into a gale.

Zachary Lewis writing on Cleveland.com recalled memories of conductor partnership with the Cleveland Orchestra:

For this listener, the defining Boulez moment was a 1999 performance of Bartok’s opera “Bluebeard’s Castle.” The eerie sound the conductor created with the Cleveland Orchestra suggesting ghastly things in Bluebeard’s home was simply unforgettable. The ghostly wind he blew through Severance Hall remains palpable 17 years later.

Jessica Duchen, journalist and writer (who also blogs), said simply:

Pierre Boulez has died at the age of 90. A visionary who owned a muse of fire. Farewell, Maestro, and thank you for waking us up and changing our lives.

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