b. Montbrison, Loire, March 26, 1925
d. Baden-Baden, Germany, January 5, 2016
Pierre Boulez is equally distinguished as composer, conductor, and thinker about music. He first came to prominence in 1955 as a composer, with a performance of his Le Marteau sans maître at the International Festival Society for Contemporary Music at Baden-Baden, Germany. As a teacher and writer, Boulez has been a spokesman for new music and a new aesthetic of music. He is the author of numerous articles, essays, and several books on music. In 1974, the President of France, Georges Pompidou, invited him to found and direct a music research facility at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. This prestigious Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) is home base for the Ensemble InterContemporain. He is also the co-founder of Cité de la Musique, a recently created music center in Paris.
For his New York Philharmonic debut on March 13, 1969, Boulez conducted Debussy’s Jeux and La Mer, as well as the Berg Violin Concerto and Varèse’s Intégrales. His performance of Le Sacre du printemps with the New York Philharmonic during that initial engagement prompted the Orchestra to engage him as its Music Director beginning in the 1971-72 season. In that post, and as Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (concurrently, 1971-74), he broadened his repertoire to provide audiences with mixed programs of older classics and more recent music.
Under Boulez, the New York Philharmonic introduced such innovative series as the Rug Concerts and Prospective Encounters, which were built around programs of contemporary music and provided opportunities for the audience to interact with artists involved in the production.