Pierre Boulez was born 1925 in Montbrison (France). At first he studied mathematics, and later music with Olivier Messiaen and René Leibowitz. Supported by Jean-Louis Barrault, he founded the concert series “domaine musical” in 1954 for which he remained responsible until 1967.
As composer, conductor and teacher Pierre Boulez has had a decisive impact on the development of contemporary musical thought for most of the 20th century, influencing generations of young composers and musicians with his seminal work. Methods such as serial composition (“Structures” for two pianos), aleatoric techniques (“Éclat/Multiples”), special sound disposition (“Rituel”) as well as the use of live electronics in processing sounds and creating feed-back loops with the help of a computer (“Répons”) all received significant new impulses through him.
His career as conductor began in 1958 when he became regular guest of the Südwestfunk-Orchestra. From 1960 to 1962 he taught composition at the music academy of the City of Basle. He became Principal Guest Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra (1967 – 72) and Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1971-75) as well as the New York Philharmonic (1971-77).
From 1977, Pierre Boulez devoted most of his time to developing the “Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique” (IRCAM) which was financed by the French government. In addition to that, he worked as lecturer at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, in Basle, at Harvard University in Cambridge, USA, and in Paris.In 1992 he withdrew from his position as director of IRCAM but remained president of the Ensemble InterContemporain which he founded and which has since become famous as one of the best ensembles for contemporary music world-wide. In 1995, he was appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
For many years Pierre Boulez has been a regular guest at the Salzburg Festival as composer as well as conductor and interpreter in particular of the music of the 20th century. As conductor, the world of music owes him the preservation of many of the most important works of contemporary music of the last century through recordings with some of the best orchestras of the world. His extensive discography includes a great number of prize-winning recordings such as his Bartók series with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Amongst his most important recordings are three complete renderings of the Mahler Symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
For his commitment to the music of the 20th century he received the „Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik“ and was nominated „Artist of the Year“ by the English music magazine “Gramophone” in 1995. In recognition of his expertise he was furthermore appointed president of UNESCO’s music council. In 1996 he was awarded the Berliner Kunstpreis and the Royal Swedish Academy honoured his cultural achievements by awarding him the Polar Music Prize.