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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 06:57 GMT
The modern touch of Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez: Master of experimental classical music
Composer and conductor Pierre Boulez picked up a best orchestral performance Grammy for his work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It is further recognition of the importance of contemporary classical music and of Boulez as a leader in the field.

Pierre Boulez has grown to become one of the world's most respected composers and one of France's most celebrated conductors.

Boulez, who was born in the Loire region of France in 1925, has also won acclaim as a pianist, teacher and writer and worked alongside leading experimental composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Olivier Messiaen.

Stockhausen: Boulez's contemporary and friend

His musical career began at the Conservatoire in Paris, one of the world's most celebrated music schools.

He graduated in 1945 and, still only 21, became musical director of the theatre company of Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud.

During this period he composed violent early pieces such as his first two piano sonatas and Livre Pour Quatuor for the string quartet.


His career as a conductor began to flourish in the 1950s, during which time he performed with the Südwestfunk (South-West German Radio).

He also began acting as guest conductor for some of Europe's leading orchestras and festivals.

By the 1960s he was appearing widely as a conductor, going on to become chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic Orchestra.

Boulez's creative output declined until he became director of the experimental music studio, the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM), in the 1970s.

Equipped with the latest computer technology, his main work was Répons for orchestra and digital music equipment.

Boulez stepped down from this position in 1991 to devote more time to composing and conducting.

In 1996 he won a Grammy for his recording of Debussy's La Mer with the Cleveland Orchestra, and won again in 2002 for Boulez Conducts Varese (Ameriques; Arcana; Deserts; Ionisation) with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

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