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Pierre Boulez
1925– 2016

Modern Classical Music

Originally a student of mathematics, he later studied with the composer and organist Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory.


Inspired by the works of Anton Webern, in the 1950s he began to experiment with total serialism; his serialist music is marked by a sensitivity to the nuances of instrumental texture and color.


In 1954 he founded a series of avant-garde concerts, the Domaine Musicale. His important works include Structures I and II (1952, 1961), Le Marteau sans maître (1957), Pli selon pli (1962), "…explosante-fixe…" (1972 – 93), and three piano sonatas.


By the 1960s he had gained an international reputation not only as a composer but also as a conductor, particularly of the 20th-century repertoire.


He was chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971 – 74) and the New York Philharmonic (1971 – 78) and guest conductor of symphonies and opera companies around the world. In 1974 he founded the French national experimental studio IRCAM.


With his greatly varied activities, including his often iconoclastic writings, he was the principal figure of the postwar international musical avant-garde.

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