PIERRE BOULEZ, COMPOSER AND CONDUCTOR, DIES AT 90; A POSTWAR FORCE IN CLASSICAL MUSIC
Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor who was a dominant figure in classical music for over half a century, died on Tuesday at his home in Baden-Baden, Germany. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by his family in a statement to the Philharmonie de Paris. “Audacity, innovation, creativity — that is what Pierre Boulez was for French music, which he helped shine everywhere in the world,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a statement.
Mr. Boulez belonged to an extraordinary generation of European composers who, while still in their 20s, came to the forefront during the decade or so after World War II. They wanted to change music radically, and Mr. Boulez took a leading role. His “Marteau Sans Maître” (“Hammer Without a Master”) was one of this group’s first major achievements, and it remains a central work of modern music.
Mr. Boulez gradually came to give more attention to conducting, where his keen ear and rhythmic incisiveness would often produce a startling clarity. (There are countless stories of him detecting, for example, faulty intonation from the third oboe in a complex orchestral texture.)He reached his peak as a conductor in the 1960s, when he began to appear with some of the world’s great orchestras, including the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. His style was unique. He never used the baton, but manipulated the orchestra by means of his two hands simultaneously, the left indicating phrasing or, in much contemporary music, counterrhythm.