Boulez was ‘the conscience of new music’

Boulez was ‘the conscience of new music’


norman lebrecht

January 06, 2016

Dr Mark Berry, a devout Boulezian, has published a swift tribute to the greatest influence on his musical and intellectual life, the French composer Pierre, Boulez, who died today.

Mark writes:

He was, quite simply, the conscience of what some of us are stubbornly old-fashioned enough still to call New Music. That does not mean that he was always right, although he was far more right than wrong, but he knew and he incessantly urged a fearsomely moral, fearsomely humane doctrine – in the very best, Catholic sense – that nothing could be further from the truth than the ‘anything goes’ post-modern morass. Yes, it did matter, as performer, as composer, as listener, as human being, what one did; no, it was not good enough to pander, to ‘make allowances’, and so on. Above all, it mattered to educate; in that sense, he stood in the greatest Western tradition.

Read the full tribute here.

boulez freeman

Boulez by Betty Freeman (c) Lebrecht Music&Arts


  • Eddie Mars says:

    Yes, all the toadies have come out of the woodwork to praise a second-rate composer and third-rate conductor.

    • Halldor says:

      Please, feel free to supply links to some of your own masterpieces. Or a major recording that you’ve conducted. Show us how it’s done.

      • Eddie Mars says:

        That would be off-topic.

        Yet 2nd-rate performances by Little Pierre are ten-a-penny.

        Janacek Glagolitic Mass in the BBC Proms. So very bad, that Deutsche Gramafon forced the orchestra and massed choruses to remain in the RAH afterwards, to do it all again.

        Not my decision. The decision of Deutsche Gramofon – people who know a thing or two about classical music.

        • John says:

          More disgusting comments from Eddie Mars. Will he ever learn that his opinion is not the only acceptable one? He looks rather infantile making such comments just hours after the death of the man.

          Also, it is Deutsche Grammophon, not Deutsche Gramafon!

    • Stuart says:


    • Ppellay says:

      There’s a time and place for this kind of thing, but not now, and not here.

    • Anne63 says:

      Outstanding reasoning. That’s me convinced.

    • Peter Jenkins says:

      Do we need to know any more about Eddie Mars? I think not.

    • Mark Berry says:

      Sorry to have ‘come out of the woodwork’. Before retreating to my hole, I’ll just ask whether ‘toadying’ would not have made more sense whilst someone was alive. Feel free to disagree with what I, or anyone, might have written, preferably with some argument of your own, but why would I be insincere about this?

    • Harry Marenstein says:

      Yet so many of the orchestral musicians I’ve known over the years who played under him lauded him, for his clarity and economy of gesture, his knowledge of the score, his ability to bring out nuances of texture and color, his impeccable ears, and his expert rehearsal technique. In short, as it’s often said in the business, he knew what he wanted, and how to get it.

    • Zack says:

      Pierre Boulez’s legacy:
      -Great musical masterpieces (to name just a few)
      -Pli Selon Pli
      -Le Marteau sans Maitre
      -Sur Incises
      -Derive I and II
      -Three Sonatas
      -Legendary recordings
      -Second Viennese School
      -Memorable concerts
      -world’s greatest orchestras
      -bringing music to a wider audience (ex. rug concerts)
      -immense repertoire (performed 378 different works with the
      -Ensemble Intercontemporain
      -In general a tremendous musician and pedagogue, beloved by all who
      worked with him

      That’s just to name a fraction of Boulez’s countless achievements to prove Eddie Mars’s invalidity. But wait! Let us look at Edward’s legacy. Maybe his is as tremendous as Boulez’s.

      Eddie Mars’s Legacy:

      Oh, well never mind. Looks like Edward is just an idiotic constipated loser. Maybe, at least, little Eddie’s parents did something significant.

      Eddie Mars’s Parents’ Legacy:
      -crap (Eddie Mars)

      Wow, what a disappointment!
      On a brighter note, Boulez’s legacy will endure for as long as music exists!

  • John Borstlap says:

    PB ‘the consience of new music’? An utterly ridiculous remark. At most, he was the conscience of sonic art. Also: ‘new music’ is a term rather meaningless because dependent upon context. Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder was new music in 1948 when they were written (still a cornerstone in the repertoire). With hindsight, those songs have shown more life than Le Marteau sans Maitre (1954-55) which sounds now very dated.

    ‘The Hammer without a Master’ – how appropriate a title for PB’s entire oeuvre.

    What ‘new music’ meant, in various contexts and at various times in different circles, can be studied in the interesting musicological research ‘Two Centuries in One’:

    Here, a couple of quite shocking revelations about postwar new music will be found, especially about the falsification of 20C music history, to which PB has wholeheartedly contributed.