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Breaking: Boulez is out of the BBC Proms… and more

Pierre Boulez has been forced to withdraw from the BBC Proms as a result of continuing difficulties with his eyesight.

We hear that he is in doubt for the Lucerne Festival.

Francois-Xavier Roth will substitute in London, where Boulez’s absence will be acutely felt during Daniel Barenboim’s Beethoven concerts, all of which are paired with works by Boulez. Here’s the press statement, just in:



13 July  8 September

Since the BBC Proms Guide 2012 was published in April there have been some changes and additions to the advertised programmes. These are listed below.

Please refer to the Proms website ( for complete, updated listings and contact a member of the BBC Proms press team if you need any further information.

Pierre Boulez

Due to recent eye surgery in the United States, Pierre Boulez is unfortunately unable to travel to the UK and will therefore not be able to conduct at the BBC Proms on 26 July or take part in the Proms Plus Intro event on 20 July. We are very grateful to François-Xavier Roth who will conduct Boulezs Le marteau sans maître at Prom 17.

We are very pleased to announce that Daniel Barenboim will join Proms Director Roger Wright in conversation at the Proms Plus Intro event at the Royal College of Music, which will now take place at 18.15-18.45 on 20 July.

Prom 9 Proms Plus Intro (20th July)

Daniel Barenboim replaces Pierre Boulez in conversation with Roger Wright at the Proms Plus event, which will now take place at 18.15-18.45.

Prom 17 (26th July)

François-Xavier Roth replaces Pierre Boulez as conductor in Le marteau sans maître.

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  1. Fran Williams says:

    A great shame. I wonder if a younger generation in Britain will now ever the get chance to see the great man conduct his greatest work? I’ve seen him conduct Le Marteau twice, and it really is a totally different piece in his hands. Recordings fail to do it full justice as well.

  2. I had the great good fortune to hear and see a Boulez-led performance of Le marteau in NYC’s Zankel Hall from a seat that allowed me to see Boulez from the front. I still don’t know the score as well as I should, but I thought his conducting was completely efficient and “accurate,” in that he seemed to give all the cues the musicians needed to come in at the right time. Very few of his gestures could have been interpreted as “expressive” in the Bernstein style (to use an extreme example). It was also noteworthy, in light of his present difficulties, that except for when he gave cues his eyes for the most part were looking at the score, indeed, they were buried in it.

    Otherwise, what most struck me about the performance was the coup de theatre of the entrance of the gongs and tam-tam near the end. Recordings, even Boulez’ own, haven’t done justice to this extraordinary sonic moment.

  3. Air travel is not advised following eye surgery due to the cabin pressure. So, will Boulez now be forced to travel transatlantic aboard a liner like the QE2? If so, perhaps the passengers shall experience something in the entertainments lounge other than the customary soporific fare of cruise ship light classics. I do hope so.

    • I like your QE2 image, but contrary to stereotype Boulez would be better placed than most to provide light entertainment.
      Diego Masson came up with an delightful anecdote in a recent interview : “do you know how Boulez earned a living in his youth? He played at the Folies Bergere club and, together with his giant white piano, he would break through the stage straight into the crowd of nude women prancing around him, playing the ‘Warsaw Concerto,’ engulfed in kitsch and lit by a pinkish light – and that was while he was writing his second sonata.”

  4. But Francois-Xavier Roth is a wonderfully gifted maestro–he will surely be terrific!

  5. Paul Pellay says:

    I had the good luck to see Boulez do Le Marteau in Venice in 1985 – I remember thinking that 60-year-olds couldn’t have come much more youthful than he at that point. I hope his eyesight problems clear up, and soon!

  6. These continuing problems also make me wonder how this affects his ability to compose. I’m still hoping (probably in vain) for him to complete some more of the Notations.

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