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Classical 101

Pierre Boulez Turns 90 Today, Featured on Symphony @ 7

Pierre Boulez
Deutsche Grammophon

Pierre Boulez will be featured as conductor on Symphony @ 7 on Classical 101. He’s 90 years old today and is regarded as the most important French composer of his generation.

He also emerged as an important conductor, noted for the clarity and precision of his interpretations and for championing music by 20th century composers in many fine recordings – a few of which we’ll sample this evening.

Boulez emerged as one of the leading figures of the avant-garde in music at the end of the Second World War. As well as being an important composer, he became a leading theorist and uncompromising advocate of new music in his insistence on greater abstraction and experimentation. The 12-tone system of Arnold Schoenberg, which was thought of as very radical when it was developed in the early 20th century, was just a point of departure for Boulez.

Boulez, the conductor, is represented in several well-regarded recordings, starting with his 1995 DG recording of Claude Debussy’s La mer with the Cleveland Orchestra, a disc that won two Grammys: Best Classical Album and Best Orchestral Performance for La mer. Bela Bartok’s Rhapsody No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra with Gil Shaham and the Chicago Symphony will be heard, and Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in E flat, Dumbarton Oaks, a neo-classical piece inspired by Bach.

To conclude the hour this evening on Symphony @ 7, I have a short piece by Frank Zappa, a musical chameleon who could cross genres from pop, rock, jazz to classical and the avant-garde with ease. For the Stravinsky concerto and Zappa’s Navel Aviation in Art?, Boulez conducts the group he created in Paris in 1976, the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

For the more musically adventurous, here is one of Pierre Boulez’s own compositions performed by the group:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj2PU37rlW4