Partner Hans Messner
Kapuzinerstraße 9, 76530 Baden-Baden, Germany
Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez (26 March 1925 – 5 January 2016) was a French composer, conductor and writer, and the founder of several musical institutions. He was one of the dominant figures of post-war Western classical music. When he died, obituaries in major newspapers and journals mentioned that Boulez was “tightly guarded” about his personal life, but music critic Norman Lebrecht, who knew him for decades, stated that Boulez was gay. He was extremely closeted, often introducing Hans Messner, his German lover of more than fifty years, as his “valet.” That Boulez was homosexual was one of the music world’s worst kept secrets.
Born in Montbrison in the Loire department of France, the son of an engineer, Boulez studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with Olivier Messiaen, and privately with Andrée Vaurabourg and René Leibowitz. He began his professional career in the late 1940s as music director of the Renaud-Barrault theatre company in Paris. He was a leading figure in avant-garde music, playing an important role in the development of integral serialism (in the 1950s), controlled chance music (in the 1960s) and the electronic transformation of instrumental music in real time (from the 1970s onwards).
As an opera conductor, Pierre Boulez was most famously associated with Bayreuth, conducting Parsifal and the Ring Cycle. In Paris he founded the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) at the Centre Pompidou and the Ensemble Intercontemporain (EIC). In the United States he was conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony and the New York Philharmonic and was composer-in-residence at Carnegie Hall (1999-2003).
As a composer, he was a champion of the avant-garde, writing atonal, electronic and serial music, although in later years composition took a back seat to conducting. He championed twentieth century composers, programming major works by Berg, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern and Varèse.
Boulez died on 5 January 2016 at his home in Baden-Baden. He was buried on 13 January in Baden-Baden's main cemetery following a private funeral service at the town's Stiftskirche. At a memorial service the next day at the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris, eulogists included Daniel Barenboim, Renzo Piano, and Laurent Bayle, then president of the Philharmonie de Paris, whose large concert hall had been inaugurated the previous year, thanks in no small measure to Boulez's influence.
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