Composer Weekly: Pierre Boulez

This week’s composer weekly is in memory of Pierre Boulez. He was one of the most influential persons in classical music. Founder of Ensemble Intercontemporain and IRCAM. Conductor and Composer.

One fascinating aspect of Boulez as a composer is that he often reworked his works. He had many pieces that he considered to be unfinished.

One such piece is Notations, a piece he first wrote in 1945. Then it was 12 small piano pieces. Later, in 1980, he reworked and expanded the pieces to orchestra pieces. Compare the piano version of Hiératique and the version for orchestra.

Another example is Anthèmes where the first version was a solo violin piece written in 1991. Later in 1997 he expanded and turned it into a piece for solo violin and live electronics, realized at IRCAM.

Below is a interview that shows a very kind, intelligent and warm Pierre Boulez talking about his music.

Click to open in Spotify



RIP Pierre Boulez

I just heard that Pierre Boulez had passed away. He was one of the most important persons for classical music, especially contemporary. Founder of Ensemble intercontemporain and IRCAM. Conductor and Composer.

When he turned 90 he was asked about his favorite pieces from the 20th century. That interview can be read here.

I have featured two pieces in the Avant-garde playlist. First it is the introduction to the piece Répons from 1981 performed by the Ensemble intercontemporain and secondly it is Edgar Varese piece Amériques conducted by Pierre Boulez.

Pierre Boulez (1968)

(Click here to open the playlist in spotify).

Contemporary: Saariaho and Lindberg

Modern Ensemble is a Spotify playlist that present contemporary music composed after 1945.

Kaija Saariaho is a Finnish composer born in 1952. She have studied in Finland at the Sibelius Academy, in Freiburg and at IRCAM in Paris. She had both Brian Ferneyhough and Gerard Grisey as teachers. In 2013 she won the Polar music prize.

Her musical style can be described as a less formal and more freely variant of spectral music. Of her early work Lichtbogen, Io and Stilleben is perhaps the most famous. She often work with computers when composing, both in generating/analyzing musical material for instrumental music and in electroacoustic music. She often have electronic parts in her instrumental music. In later years she have been also started writing operas. From L’Amour de loin written in 2000 to the latest, Émilie, from 2010.

Two works that are closely related is Du cristal and …a la fumee… from 1989 and 1990, They are composed as separate pieces but are constructed so that they can be played together. Du cristal ends with a cello sul ponticello thrill fading away and …a la fumee… starts with the same tremolo. Both pieces are large scale orchestral pieces with electronic elements.

Magnus Lindberg is a Finnish composer born in 1958. After studying in the Sibelius Academy he studied both with Brian Ferneyhough and Gerard Grisey. He has been composer-in-residence both for the New York Philharmonic’s and London Philharmonic Orchestra.

When he was in Berlin he was exposed to it’s punk scene with bands like Einstürzende Neubauten. This was one of the inspirations when he wrote his monumental orchestral piece Kraft for orchestra and a group of soloists. Other early pieces is the ensemble piece UR, and the trio of pieces Kinetics, Marea and Joy. He often use computers to guide him when he write music. One example is the computer generated counterpoint in Engine from 1996. Over the years his music has become less Avant-garde and his perhaps most popular work, the Clarinet Concerto from 2002, almost has a folk tone. Other later pieces is Graffiti for orchestra and choir and the orchestra piece Seht die Sonne

Related Rocks is a piece for two pianos, two percussionists and electronics from 1997. It is a virtuosic and playful piece, both for the pianists and percussionists.

Enjoy! (click here to open the playlist in spotify).