Medical Tuesday Blog
Pierre Boulez, composer and conductor, died on January 5th, aged 90
The Economist | From the print edition | Jan 16th 2016
FEW figures were cooler or calmer than Pierre Boulez on the podium. He conducted without a baton, lifting the phrases and flicking them away with long, elegant fingers. The rest of his body did not move, impassive and commanding as a man lightly trimming a hedge; his face was a stone mask, only his darting eyes revealing how he was excavating the music, uncovering the layers and rebuilding them in structures of crystal clarity. Many said he was the finest conductor-composer since Richard Strauss. Every inch of him suggested that he was well aware of that.
Inside the statue, though, was gelignite. Music, to him, was in permanent revolution; but since there had been no proper upheaval since the Renaissance, he was leading one. For 50 years he was at war, or in a state of uneasy truce, with the musical establishment, fighting to make the deaf, incurious or plain uncultured appreciate the works of their own time. . .
Of the private Boulez, almost nothing was revealed; he was a solitary, isolated by choice and cloaking his charm, much of the time, in arrogance. His favourite mental associates were bad-boy poets, Rimbaud and Baudelaire, or abstract painters like Kandinsky, all smashers of boundaries and shockers of the status quo.
When he composed, he once explained, he dug down through layers of himself towards the “core of darkness” from which, in extraordinary flashes, his music came. Though the music might be wildly radical, this core—another paradox—would never change. Towards that unknown, like Orpheus, he made the most tumultuous and controversial journey of any modern classical musician.
Read the entire obituary. . . Economist