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Pierre Boulez At 80: The Conductor and the Composer

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Customer Reviews

What he does best

When he was within his chosen range -- the great and small masterpieces of 20th century music, and especially the French music he loves best -- Pierre Boulez was the greatest conductor of his era. Precise, fastidious, not a note out of tune or out of place (the New York Philharmonic players nicknamed him "Charlie the Tuna" because he was always making them tune up), he is as faithful to the difficult scores he tackles as any composer could wish. I guarantee Gustav Mahler and Bela Bartok are looking down approvingly from whatever heaven those two notoriously finicky masters inhabit. And the miracle is that, far from sounding dry and academic, Boulez's musical literalism resulted in some of the most exciting and lavishly gorgeous performances and recordings in history. Listen to this sample and see for yourself. Boulez is said to have turned to conducting because he couldn't stand the mess other conductors were making of his own compositions. The selection of Boulez's own music here is small but will give you an idea of what mid-century modernism was like. It's fallen out of favor with younger composers nowadays, but I find its glittery sounds quite ear-pleasing.


Born: March 26, 1925 in Montbrison, France

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

After initially studying mathematics, Boulez entered the Paris Conservatoire as a student in theory and harmony (he failed the pianists' entrance examination). His principal teacher was Messiaen, and he also studied counterpoint privately with Andrée Vaurabourg. According to Boulez, composition was a form of aesthetic research and should be pursued logically. He viewed personal stylistic development as having no importance and deemed atonality as necessary. He adopted 12-tone serialism after being...
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Pierre Boulez At 80: The Conductor and the Composer, Pierre Boulez
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  • $11.99
  • Genres: Classical, Music
  • Released: May 10, 2005

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