an blog | AJBlog Central | Contact me | Advertise | Follow me:

Just in: Huge award for Pierre Boulez

The French composer-conductor has been honoured with the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge and Culture Award for 2013.

The prize is ’400,000 Euros, a diploma and a commemorative artwork’.


UPDATE: Luis Sunen reports from Madrid (see Comments) that Boulez will donate the money to the Lucerne Festival Academy.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Mark Stratford says:

    Good for Boulez – but I wonder what he’ll do with the money ? All those summers in Bayreuth, Salzburg and Lucerne, the directorships of NYPO and BBSO. the lucrative guesting in Cleveland, London and Chicago, plus the DG and Sony back catalogue must seriously add up. Not to mention people buying scores of Le Marteau and the 2nd sontata.

    He’s got that estate in Baden Baden and there must be a limit to what more he can spend.

    Am sure this award could have gone to a more needy cause.

    • Agreed. Although I admire Pierre Boulez greatly, I do find it rather ludicrous to give such awards to people who don’t need them, neither financially nor career-wise. Why not promote someone up and coming, or at least someone not as well established as Mr. Boulez is? There are several composers nowadays whose work deserves to be heard and who would greatly benefit from such recognition.

    • Estate? It’s a nice home, certainly, but he bought it decades ago for the equivalent of about $35,000 U.S.

  2. Rosana Martins says:

    Bravo, Boulez! I cannot think of anyone more deserving. Pierre Boulez is an example in the music world!

  3. Mark Stratford says:

    Does anybody know about Boulez’ health ? He’s been cancelling performances and lectures for well over a year now. And maybe the eyesight problems have been hampering the compositional projects he sometimes speaks about : a new ending to Eclats-Multiples, Antheme III (commissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter) and the orchestral re-workings of the remaining Notations.

  4. I wouldn’t mind seeing partie IV on a programme: the string quartet has ben waiting about 64 years to become notably less unfinished.

  5. Bob Summers says:

    Mr. Boulez is in my opinion the greatest musician of the last 100 years. Bravo !!!!!

  6. Isn’t it the normal course of action that the lucky winner distributes the money amongst his personal favourite musical projects/institutions etc?

  7. I couldn’t agree more with some of the earlier comments. I fully endorse the fact that he has been a major influence on classical music over the last 60+ years, but to give him a financial award that I suspect he neither needs or can benefit from is crazy. A trophy or music industry award yes, but a finacial award could have been spent much more wisely on the promotion of some new and struggling artists that need a “kick start” to their careers.

  8. Boulez thinks to be in Madrid for the award ceremony next month. And -this morning was the general commentary in the press conference- give the money to the Luzerne Festival Academy.

  9. Justinian Forthemoney says:

    He should buy long term Greek and Spanish Government Bonds as a patriotic duty.

  10. Donating the money is something that only few people are willing to do. Congratulations for wining and lots of respect for donating the money.

    • A figure of great political importance….a sort of shaker and mover.
      I like the NL’s article but propagandist is perhaps a trifle unfair-like his predecessor at the NYphil he was an exceptional eductator.
      In terms of legacy, i prefer other composers from that generation as they move me: Xenakis, Barraque,LIgeti and Stockhausen spring to mind.
      Conducting is variable to say the least-compare Boulez’s careful and earthbound account of Messiaen’s ‘Chronochromie’ with the earlier spine tingling reading from Dorati and the BBCSO.

  11. He is a brilliant and analytical mind, a very great and very giving teacher, fine composer even if not easily absorbed by everyone, and a terrific conductor of works by composers of works that were his specialty. His life has been committed to making music, not money, so I think there was never any doubt he would donate the award, e.g., to a school or ensemble.

  12. Rosana Martins says:

    I believe that Pierre Boulez can do whatever he chooses with the prize money and it is absurd that people should be suggesting otherwise.

    • Of course he is free to do whatever he wants. But his decision to donate the money honurs him.

      On the other hand: It doesn’t make much sense to award such a high amount as a prize to someone who doesn’t really need the money if you don’t expect him to donate it. You could do a lot more useful things with EUR 400k.

    The euforic comments on this article betray a profound confusion about musical values…. The Lebrecht article from 2000 says it all. And many professionals in music life (among which, many of the better) consider Boulez a sloppy conductor and his ‘interpretations’ empty and boring. Anybody who has seen him conducting tonal music knows how indifferent his style is, how dry the result, how uninspiring his gestures – there is no music in the man if music means an art form, where fixed pitches form an interrelated system which creates its own context, which can communicate some emotional experience. The sources of B’s invalid ideas about music are to be found in his ‘music’, which is, in fact, no music at all but sophisticated (and at times, decorative) sonic art, where the pitches don’t matter and the sound effects are all there is. To be able to create sonic art and call it music, means that the art form of (serious) music is not understood.

    Composing or performing sonic art does not require musical capacities; Boulez has helped to open the doors to crowds of musically-untalented people who were given the opportunity to parade as a ‘composer’, supported by nonsense ideologies of ‘progressiveness’ and other totalitarian misconceptions. For that reason, in music life, IRCAM is sometimes rightly referred to as the Institute for the Retrograde Conservation of Abominable Musicians.

    Boulez, together with the other ‘arch fathers’ of modernism Xenakis and Stockhausen, is the product of war trauma and totalitarian mentality, his work nothing more than a curious and embarrassing footnote in music history, and a reminder that destroying musical tradition is easier than supporting or restoring it. The real reason Boulez is being celebrated is that music life is in great need of ‘grand old men’ to draw the attention of the world to itself, being under threat of financial melt-down, and being attacked as a ‘museum culture’ without any relevance to the modern world. Putting old Boulez on a pedestal is supposed to give ‘classical music’ something of contemporary character….. tragically, this is an act of destruction, not of support.

    • Of course nothing Boulez has done will ever match the work of Borstlap! Nor the latter’s equanimity and generosity of spirit. “Anybody who has seen him conducting tonal music knows . . . ” Except that almost *nobody* who has seen — or heard — him conducting tonal music, as so many have over the past 50 years, knows any such thing. Do let us know of your upcoming premières and especially any lecturing or mentoring you will be doing, meneer! I can’t imagine anything quite like these experiences!

      • Since when is disagreeing with some kind of conventional consensus ‘lecturing’ and ‘mentoring’? There is a film recording of Boulez conducting the complete Stravinsky Firebird ballet music circulating on TV which shows how uninterested he is in the music, correctly beating time and failing to emanate any musically stimulating presence; I heard a recording of Debussy’s ‘Jeux’ which is as stiff as an old vicar’s attempt at dancing a foxtrot; there is a remarkable recording of Ravel’s piano concerto for the left hand where he tries to make clearly audible the textural details that the composer had obviously intended to melt into a velvet sound panel; I attended the Welsh National Opera’s production in the eighties of ‘Pelléas’ in Cardiff which Boulez had ‘cleansed’ from all subtle and atmospheric sound coloring, producing stained glass instead of the ‘sfumato’ Debussy had so studiously achieved in his writing; and there is, of course, his Ring in Bayreuth of 1976 which does not breath, and is quasi-clean, i.e. without the suggestive lyricism and expressive curves the score obviously requires (the singers had difficulties with the tempi which were often much too fast). The Boulez Ring was eventually a success, because one could now hear a Wagner without Wagner, indeed a novelty, and in a museum culture that is always welcome. – These are just a couple of examples…..Why suould one be generous to such a Stalinist? (his own self-characterization).

        • Oh, no! I meant actual lecturing and mentoring. You must be wonderful with students and young composers, conductors, and performers. And wonderful how you can read a man’s mind by watching him conduct “on TV,” too! There is probably money in that somewhere.

          • You know, if you are a professional musician, you can judge things. Then you don’t have to rely upon what other people say. It’s outsiders and dilletanti who merely steer on consensus. To return to Mr B, there are many excellent professional musicians who see through this man’s pretence, but since this pretence is clothed in the ideological jargon of modernism, people think that, well, it is often just dry and boring, but if it’s modern, I do not want to be seen as a reactionary – and so they endorse mr B’s activities.

an ArtsJournal blog