Pierre Boulez: In Memoriam

Pierre Boulez in the Great Performances broadcast “Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Pierre Boulez Conducts Mahler’s 7th ” (2010).

Great Performances mourns the passing of the great music director Pierre Boulez (March 26, 1925 — January 5, 2016), who appeared in three Great Performances broadcasts: Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Pierre Boulez Conducts Mahler’s 7th (2010), The Berlin Philharmonic Europakonzert: From Lisbon (2003) and an eight-part adaptation of Wagner’s Ring Cycle from the Bayreuth Festival (1983), which debuted on Great Performances as the first broadcast of the Ring on television.

Not only was Boulez a gifted pianist and conductor, but, in his early career as a composer, he played a key role in the development of modern classical music with his contributions to integral serialism, controlled chance, and electronic music. During his career, he won 26 Grammy Awards.

Boulez was born in 1925 in Montbrison, France, and studied mathematics before turning to music. He founded and directed the Domaine modern concert series in Paris in 1954 and continued to direct it through 1967, the year he was named principal guest conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra.

In 1971 he became principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (until 1975) and music director of the New York Philharmonic (until 1977).

In 1976 he was Music Director of the 100th-anniversary production of Wagner’s Ring at the Bayreuth Festival and returned to conduct the cycle again at the next four festivals.

His tenure as principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra began in 1995, the year he turned 70 and was named “Artist of the Year” by Gramophone. In 2006 he was appointed Conductor Emeritus of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

He served as director of the Lucerne Festival Academy as recently as 2014.

Learn more about Boulez’s life and career on the Deutsche Grammophone site.