Published on January 6 2016

In tribute to Pierre Boulez

 Pierre Boulez en coulisses avant une représentation de “Pierrot lunaire” – Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2006
© Elisabeth Carecchio

It was with great emotion that we learned of the death of Pierre Boulez. His outstanding personality made a profound impact on the musical life of the post-war period. Pierre Boulez was a composer, conductor, music theorist and educator, but he also made his mark in the field of cultural policy, from the creation of IRCAM to the Cité de la Musique and the Philharmonie de Paris.
In 1955, Gabriel Dussurget invited him to the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence to perform the French premiere of Marteau sans maître. In 1998, he worked alongside Stéphane Lissner for the relaunch of the Festival. For the first session of the l’Académie européenne de musique, he sponsored a composition class that attracted some sixty applications from across the globe. In 2000, at his request, the Festival opened up its programming to African and Eastern music, from Balinese gamelan to Far East court ritual. He also conducted five concerts in recollection of the 20th century.

In 1998, he conducted Bluebeard’s Castle in a staging by Pina Bausch. He returned to Aix in 2003 and in 2006 with Klaus-Michael Grüber to conduct Les Tréteaux de Maître Pierre / Renard / Pierrot Lunaire. In 2006, he conducted the Ensemble Intercontemporain in a new version of Dérive 2.

The year 2007 saw his final, masterful collaboration with Patrice Chéreau on Janáček’s sublime opera, From the House of the Dead. The image of the two artists taking a bow together for the last time on stage will always remain with us. Pierre Boulez’s work, his compositions, recordings and writings will continue to nurture generations of artists and music lovers for years to come.

Bernard Foccroulle, director of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence

What an experience and what a privilege it was to work alongside Pierre Boulez when Stéphane Lissner asked me to help him with the relaunch of the Festival. His great courtesy and kindness, his intelligence and helpfulness were the cornerstones on which we were able to design an ambitious and fair Académie européenne de musique. His challenging but thoughtful advice made it possible to build on solid foundations, leading to the successful Académie that we know today.

Starting with the first session in 1998, a composition Académie was launched six months before the Festival opened, to prepare the Festival programme’s opera and ballet set designs with the five composers who had been selected. In 2000, he conducted the student violists of the Académie and the Ensemble Intercontemporain in a performance of Éclat/Multiples, and that same year the squares of Aix resounded to the sound of the bagpipers he had asked us to invite, while the Cité du Livre hosted an unforgettable Indonesian gamelan concert.
And then there were, of course, the very first meetings between Pierre Boulez and Klaus Michael Grüber to prepare the Falla / Stravinsky / Schoenberg triptych, and their conversations on shadow and puppet theatre.

And there were also helicopters: one that arrived totally unexpectedly as the curtain rose on the premiere of Bluebeard’s Castle; the other to celebrate his 80th birthday after a lunch under the plane trees, surrounded by friends in the Aix countryside ...

Béatrice de Laage, Head of Artistic Coordination