How the Guardian and Observer reported on the life and music of Pierre Boulez
Composer George Benjamin salutes the French composer-conductor whose polemical essays and presence on the podium has transformed musical composition, institutions and taste
From the archive: Boulez reviews and features from 1952 to 1989
I once asked a group of young composers I was teaching whether there was any modern music they didn’t like. More than half of them mentioned Pierre Boulez. I was initially shocked that they could reject such a supreme musical creator of our time, but the fiercely polemical character of the man may have been the reason for their antipathy. After all, it was Boulez who once declared, without a trace of irony, that any composer who did not acknowledge the necessity of Schoenberg’s 12-tone system was “useless”, and who wrote caustic articles such as “Schoenberg Is Dead”, criticising the Austrian composer’s approach just months after his death in 1951.
Many young composers read his writings, but they don’t always know his music. And yet what you might not guess from the polemics is the sheer beauty of his compositions.
Related: Matthias Pintscher on Boulez's Pli selon pli
At the start of this week, we asked you what songs made you happy – and to celebrate today’s official day of global joy, we’ve made a playlist of some of your best and most unusual choices
Hallé/Elder(Hallé, 2 CDS)
Faust/Queyras/Melnikov/Freiburger Barockorchester/Heras-Casado(Harmonia Mundi)
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