Breaking: Boulez is dead

The death has been announced of Pierre Boulez, the most influential French musician of his time and also the most divisive.

He was 90 and has been bedridden for almost two years.

More follows. First assessment here.


‘The conscience of new music’ here.

Boulez talks here.

An exemplary obituary here.

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  • The Iceman Goeth. Not a fan of his music – not a bit. Not much of a music critic: despised Sibelius and Tchaikovsky (he could only dream of being as well loved). But his Mahler is revelatory. Not to all tastes, but surely a legitimate approach. RIP

  • Boulez was in my opinion the reincarnation of the real renaissance alchemist. And one of those rare composers with a greatness comparable with Bach and Beethoven, to mention only two big examples.

    • Alchemist is not a flattering allegory me thinks.
      Alchemists were people who always promised (to make gold) but never delivered, correct?

      • Oh really! So many comments that are more about the commenters than about PB. Can we just chill the snark and remember this man who was an influential force in 20th century music?

        • Yes, alright. But his followers really troubled us young vulnerable composers in their insistence on elevating him in our minds, and PB made some outrageous statements which disparaged the establishment such as that “opera is dead”. He said that “History seems more than ever to me a great burden. In my opinion we must get rid of it once and for all”. A very interesting and valid remark. But the rest of the world in its adulation of PB is to make him a part of History.

          • “History seems more than ever to me a great burden. In my opinion we must get rid of it once and for all”

            That’s one of the most stupid things I have ever heard. Hoepfully the context is missing, which would bring some sense to the otherwise crazy brainfart.

            It would represent the complete loss of man’s natural roots and physical existence. Something not even a robot could wish for.
            Maybe he envisioned ‘The Matrix’. “There” his wish would become “reality”.

  • The last true musical giant of our time in no more. We are sad never to have heard his like again.

  • Here in Cleveland we will sorely miss Mr. Boulez. He shepherded the Cleveland Orchestra through a tough transition period just after Szell’s death and maintained a musical relationship with the Orchestra for almost 50 years. He always brought programs of challenging and envigorating repertoire — a wonderful contrast to the usual, predictable programming many orchestras offer. He treated the musicians with respect and kindness. It was touching to encounter him while on tour in Lucerne, where he could be seen riding public transportation or talking with one of us in the lobby of a hotel between rehearsals. We will not see his like again!

  • Mr. Lebrecht, ever since learning that Pierre Boulez had become terminally ill, I was wondering: who would have the guts to announce the headline of his demise in precisely the terms he used for Schönberg?
    Somehow, I always hoped you would. And indeed you did, lightening the mood of this sad moment with the wry wit of which Boulez was so fond.

    Given today’s date, we may say that Boulez has suffered a fatal epiphany.

  • It is truly awful to linger at death’s door for 2 years. One does not wish such end to anybody, not even to PB.

  • 2 former NYPO music directors within a month… and Lorin Maazel’s departure was only 18 months ago.

    Sad news, he leaves behind some excellent recordings and some of the best compositions of the 20th century.

  • Norman: I hope you will reprint your magnificent Heroes and Villains essay from the Observer many years ago.

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