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Pierre Boulez - Iconoclast

Pierre Boulez is among the most influential contemporary classical musicians, both as composer and conductor. Boulez is also an articulate, perceptive and sweeping writer on music. His iconoclastic stance is clear in his statement:  "I shall be the first composer in history not to have a biography."
As a composer, Boulez is known principally for his extension of the techniques of serialism (12-tone/no harmonic centre) beyond the limits of the Second Viennese School of Schoenberg. Under the strong influence of his teacher Messian, Boulez organized serialism into a logical style that brought a paradoxical freedom.
Among his best-known compostitons are 3 piano sonatas - the last of which involves a choice by the performer as to the sequence of its segments. His instrumental works cover a wide  variety of primary - or eclectic combinations of - instruments. Boulez  established himself as a serious composer with Le mateau sans maitre ("The hammer without a master"), scored for flute, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, percussion and viola.
Boulez is a world-famous conductor, having directed most of the leading symphony orchestras and ensembles since the late 1950s. He served both as Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971-1975), and Music Director of the New York Philharmonic (1971-1977). He is currently Principal Guest Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Boulez is particularly famed for his polished interpretations of 20th-century composers - Claude Debussy, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Leos Janacek, Bela Bartok, Anton Webern and Edgar Varese - as well as numerous performances of contemporary music.
Clarity, precision, rhythmic agility and a respect for the composer's intentions  - as noted in the musical score - are hallmarks of his conducting style. Boulez never uses a baton, conducting with his hands alone. His 19th-century repertoire focuses upon Beethoven, Berlioz, Schumann and especially, Wagner.

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