Pierre Boulez In Action: Deft Conductor, Bold Composer, Zappa Collaborator

January 7, 2016
Photo: Boulez conducting 2008
Pierre Boulez conducting in 2008.

who died this week at 90:

As a conductor, he had an uncanny ability to take charge of an orchestra and shaping its sound using only his hands. This video of the New York Philharmonic playing Claude Debussy's "La Mer" is a great example:

As a composer, he created intricate music that explored serialism and other innovations of 20th century classical music. 

Those compositions often left listeners cold. But here's a doorway into one of his more important pieces. A 20-year-old Boulez wrote 12 Notations for piano in 1945 after studying as a favorite student of composer Olivier Messiaen. Explore the Score offers an interactive look at the piece with insights from Boulez himself.

Finally, here's a quick nod to one of Boulez's unique collaborations. To many music fans, he's probably best known for conducting orchestral and chamber music by avant-garde rock guitarist Frank Zappa. Here's a taste of the results, captured on the 1984 album "Boulez Conducts Zappa: The Perfect Stranger:"

Hear more music from Boulez as part of CPR Classical's two-hour tribute from 7-9 p.m. Saturday, and read more about Boulez from NPR Music.

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