An exemplary Boulez obituary

An exemplary Boulez obituary


norman lebrecht

January 06, 2016

It’s by Tim Page, in the Washington Post:

In later years, Mr. Boulez was by all accounts a gracious, soft-spoken and self-effacing gentleman, much beloved by the musicians he worked with. In his composition and his conducting — which he managed with the brisk efficiency of a bank teller giving change — he was the antithesis of the romanticized stereotype of egoistic, heaven-storming musician.

“Perhaps I can explain it best by an old Chinese story,” he said to his biographer, the late Joan Peyser. “A painter drew a landscape so beautifully that he entered the picture and disappeared. For me, that is the definition of a great work — a landscape painted so well that the artist disappears in it.”

Read full obit here.



  • Peter says:

    “The artist disappearing in his art”
    Wonderful words…

    The reality of the music biz: Art disappearing behind artists.

    Blame the audiences, not the artists.

    His artistic “tragedy”: Not recognized with comparable gratification as a creator/composer than as an interpreter/musician, the price to be paid for a comfy life in the materialistic jet set.

  • Olassus says:

    What is “a violent, glittering and emotional music”? And when did music become a count noun?

    • Patrick Brompton says:

      When did music become a count noun?

      According to the OED ‘music’ has served as a count noun since at least 1590: Sir P. Sidney ‘Arcadia’ iii. vi. sig. Ll7, “Musickes at her windowe, & especially such Musickes, as might … call the mind to thinke of sorow, and thinke of it with sweetnes.”

      But perhaps the enquiry is rhetorical.

      • Olassus says:

        Not entirely rhetorical. I mean, Tim Page’s sentence would read just as clearly without the article. The Jacobean usage died out, probably before the close of the 17th century.

        • Patrick Brompton says:

          No, it did not. As clearly proved by the example that you yourself cite.

          • Olassus says:

            Was it used after 1700 and before about 1970, when we began seeing it in musical-academic circles as short-hand for “styles of” or “schools of”?

        • Patrick Brompton says:


          And your reference to established usage in musical-academic circles provides yet further evidence of the currency of ‘music’ as a count noun.

          • Olassus says:

            I see. Any examples from those three centuries? Any examples today among ordinary people? Not sure that academic convenience constitutes an extension of our language.

        • Patrick Brompton says:

          It is unfortunate that you seemingly do not have the capacity to look these things up yourself, but the OED cites ten examples of ‘music’ as a count noun distributed between 1590 and 1985.

          Internet literature searches yield further historical and recent examples, as well as a good number of works published under such titles as ‘World Musics in Context’ or ‘The Other Classical Musics’ or ‘Popular Musics of the Non-Western World’ and even ‘Musics of a Village Church: a View from the Organ Bench’ (must try to track that one down!).

          It is hard to fathom what you understand by ‘ordinary people’, or why you should impose arbitrary limits on language merely because a certain usage has been employed by, among others, academics.

          • Olassus says:

            Thank you. Well, all four of those titles strike me as outgrowths of academic usage, which I consider to be short-hand, replacing missing words that ordinary people would without fail include. This is akin to jargon. I’ll have to take your word for the OED citations as I don’t have access.

  • Olassus says:

    Interesting that he hated Tchaikovsky and yet was gay and closeted himself.

  • Timothy Paige says:

    dry… not sweet. 😉

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Tim’s might be poetry, NYTimes obit might be prose; but, both are worth reading and serve as appropriate tributes to this remarkable musician.