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Pierre Boulez
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    (March 26, 1925-January 5, 2016)
    Born in Montbrison, France
    Composer and conductor
    Compositions include three piano sonatas, ‘Le marteau sans maitre’ (‘The Hammer without a Master’), ‘Pli seion pli’ (‘Fold Upon Fold’), Rituel: In Memoriam Bruno Maderna,’ ‘Repons,’ ‘Sur Incises’ and ‘Anthemes’
    Chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971-75)
    Musical director of the New York Philharmonic (1971-77)
    As a conductor, best known for his interpretations of 20th century composers, including Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Anton Webern, Alban Berg and Edgard Varese
    Also conducted the centennial production of Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ at the Bayreuth Festival (1976)
    Founded the Institute for the Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music (IRCAM, 1977)
    Last name pronounced ‘Boo-lezz’
    In public, he identified his life partner, Hans Messmer, as his valet.
    He and a group of friends disrupted a concert by Igor Stravinsky, booing the composer for being too conservative.
    In a 1967 interview, he declared, ‘The most elegant way of solving the opera problem would be to blow up the opera houses.’ (Although he later said it had been a joke: ‘It was very funny to me.’)
    That comment would get him briefly detained by Swiss authorities as a potential security risk during thepost-9/11 period of heightened security.
    He described his music as ‘organized delirium.’
    He began his conducting career only because his compositions initially were considered too complex for anyone else to conduct.
    He was criticized for being aloof, with the New York Times Magazine titling a profile of him ‘The Iceberg Conducteth.’
    He had such sharp hearing that an orchestra member claimed he could identify the note produced when a dropped pin hit the floor.
    He held ‘rug concerts’ at the New York Philharmonic, removing the stall seats and allowing the audiences to lie back and listen in an informal setting.
    His compositions incorporated elements from jazz, Indonesian gamelan music, and traditional African and Japanese music.
    He conducted an album of Frank Zappa’s music.
    He won 25 Grammys in competitive categories, plus their lifetime achievement award.
    He said the ‘worst of sins’ is ‘when you’re not imaginative at all, when you are just complacent with yourself.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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