With the passing of Pierre Boulez, the Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have lost a great musical collaborator and friend. With his remarkable skill and insight, every concert of ours that he conducted was a meaningful musical experience. And through our many years of work together, he remained a true colleague of the musicians.
As a guest conductor of the CSO, Pierre Boulez always brought challenging and thoughtful programs to Chicago, and on tour. A varied repertoire including his own “Notations,” works of Berlioz, Mahler, Bartok, the Second Viennese School, and some of the most challenging contemporary works of fellow composers, always received the same thorough, thoughtful preparation and execution.
With the departure of Daniel Barenboim as Music Director in 2006, Maestro Boulez offered his services, together with Bernard Haitink, providing artistic leadership of the CSO, on an interim basis. His contribution to the orchestra prior to the appointment of Music Director Riccardo Muti was crucial to the organization’s continued success.
Maestro Muti on Maestro Boulez
"With the loss of Pierre Boulez, the world of music today is infinitely poorer. As both an admirer and friend of the Maestro, I am deeply grateful for his contributions, as composer, conductor and educator, to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with which he had a collaboration of nearly 50 years, and served so brilliantly as its principal guest conductor and conductor emeritus. His great musical artistry and exceptional intelligence will be missed."
Maestro Boulez and Maestro Muti. This photo hangs in Maestro Muti's office in Chicago.
photo by Todd Rosenberg/CSO
Pierre Boulez in CSO.org
Born March 26, 1925, Montbrison, France
Died January 5, 2016, Baden Baden, Germany
Born in 1925 in Montbrison, France, Pierre Boulez initially trained in mathematics and later pursued studies in piano, composition, and choral conducting at the Paris Conservatory, where his teachers included Olivier Messiaen and René Leibowitz. In 1954, he founded the Concerts du Petit Marigny, one of the first concert series entirely dedicated to the performance of modern music, which later became the Domaine Musical series.
Throughout the next decade, he was intensely involved with musical analysis, and he taught in Darmstadt and at Basel University. In 1963, he was a visiting professor at Harvard University, and in 1976 he became a professor at the Collège de France.
Boulez began his conducting career in 1958 with the Südwestfunk Orchestra in Baden-Baden, Germany. His success there brought him to the Cleveland Orchestra in 1965, where he held posts as principal guest conductor and musical advisor from 1969 until 1972. In 1971, he became chief conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra; that same year he succeeded Leonard Bernstein as music director of the New York Philharmonic, a position he held until 1977.
In 1974, Boulez became creator and director of the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). This led to the creation of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, one of the world’s finest contemporary music ensembles, which Boulez conducted in France as well as on extended tours abroad. He also co-founded the Cité de la Musique, a music center in Paris created in 1995.
Boulez was one of the leaders of post–World War II musical modernism and his advocacy of modern and postmodern music was decisive for many. His numerous compositions still are widely performed, including Le marteau sans maître, Livre pour cordes, Pli selon pli, three piano sonatas, Le visage nuptial, Répons, . . . explosante-fixe . . ., and Notations. Boulez’s many awards and honors included honorary doctorates from Leeds, Cambridge, Basel, and Oxford universities, among others; Commander of the British Empire; and Knight of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2002, he was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize for his contributions to the Collège de France, and in 2009 he was awarded the Inamori Foundation’s 25th Annual Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Philosophy.
Pierre Boulez made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in February 1969, leading two weeks of subscription concerts. The first week included the subscription concert debut of Daniel Barenboim as soloist in Bartók’s First Piano Concerto and the second week included Jacqueline du Pré as soloist in Schumann’s Cello Concerto along with the U.S. premiere of Boulez’s Livre pour cordes. He returned as guest conductor in 1987 and beginning in 1991, he began appearing annually in Chicago. In 1995 he was invited by Daniel Barenboim to become the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s third principal guest conductor, and in 2006 he became the CSO’s Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus.
Boulez led the Orchestra on numerous trips to New York’s Carnegie Hall and tours to England (London), Germany (Berlin, Cologne, and Essen), Hungary (Budapest), and Japan (Tokyo). He also curated several MusicNOW concerts, delivered lectures on a variety of contemporary issues at the Art Institute of Chicago, participated in Beyond the Score presentations both in Chicago and in New York, and conducted the Civic Orchestra of Chicago on many occasions both in concert and in reading sessions of new music.
Read the entire article on cso.org
Pierre Boulez in the New York Times
Pierre Boulez conducting the New York Philharmonic in the 1970s.
Credit:New York Philharmonic Archives
Pierre Boulez, the French composer and conductor who was a dominant figure in classical music for over half a century, died on Tuesday at his home in Baden-Baden, Germany. He was 90.
His death was confirmed by his family in a statement to the Philharmonie de Paris. Prime Minister Manuel Valls, also in a statement, said, “Audacity, innovation, creativity — that is what Pierre Boulez was for French music, which he helped shine everywhere in the world.”
Mr. Boulez belonged to an extraordinary generation of European composers who, while still in their 20s, came to the forefront during the decade or so after World War II. They wanted to change music radically, and Mr. Boulez took a leading role. His “Marteau Sans Maître” (“Hammer Without a Master”) was one of this group’s first major achievements, and it remains a central work of modern music.
Mr. Boulez came to give more attention to conducting, where his keen ear and rhythmic incisiveness would often produce a startling clarity. (There are countless stories of him detecting, for example, faulty intonation from the third oboe in a complex orchestral texture.)
He reached his peak as a conductor in the 1960s, when he began to appear with some of the world’s great orchestras, including the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Berlin Philharmonic and the Cleveland Orchestra. His style was unique. He never used the baton, but manipulated the orchestra by means of his two hands simultaneously, the left indicating phrasing or, in much contemporary music, counter-rhythm.
His characteristic sound — unemotional on the surface but with undercurrents of intemperateness, at once brilliant in color and rhythmically disciplined — depended on his famously acute ear and suited his core repertoire: Stravinsky (several of whose works he introduced to Europe), Debussy, Webern, Bartok and Messiaen. It was refreshing as well in his many excursions into earlier music.
As a young composer, he matched intelligence with great force of mind: He knew what had to be done, according to his reading of history, and he did it, in defiance of all the norms of French musical culture at the time. To be a conductor, though, meant working with the existing machinery.
He tried to remake that machinery in 1971, when he became music director simultaneously of the New York Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London. He tried to explore unconventional repertoire, unconventional concert formats and unconventional locations. But he also accepted that he had to rethink some of his own preconceptions, and as his musical outlook broadened, his output as a composer dwindled.
It was his reputation as an avant-garde composer and as a crusader for new music that prompted his unexpected appointment as music director of the New York Philharmonic, succeeding Leonard Bernstein. After the initial shock at his arrival, there was hope that he might, as many said at the time, bring the orchestra into the 20th century and appeal to younger audiences. But his programming often met with hostility in New York, and he left quietly six years later.
His destination was Paris. Dismissive of the French musical establishment, he had spent most of the previous two decades abroad, but President Georges Pompidou, keen to reclaim a native son, had agreed to found a contemporary-music center for him in the capital: the Institute for the Research and Coordination of Acoustics and Music, known as Ircam. It had its own 31-piece orchestra, the Ensemble Intercontemporain.
In the 1980s, Mr. Boulez gained further government support for his grandest project, the City of Music complex in the Villette district of Paris, housing the Paris Conservatoire, a concert hall and an instrument museum.
Pierre Boulez (the Z in the name is not silent) was born on March 26, 1925, in Montbrison, a town near Lyon, the son of an industrialist, Léon Boulez, and the former Marcelle Calabre. He studied the piano and began to compose in his teens.
A defining moment came when he heard a broadcast of Stravinsky’s “Song of the Nightingale” conducted by Ernest Ansermet; it was a work to which he often returned throughout his conducting career. Against the wishes of his father, who wanted him to study engineering, he went to Paris in 1942 and enrolled at the Conservatoire.
In 1944-45, he took a harmony class taught by Olivier Messiaen, whose impact on him was decisive. Messiaen’s teaching went far beyond traditional harmony to embrace new music that was outlawed both by the stagnant Conservatoire of that period and by the German occupying forces: the music of Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok and Webern. Messiaen also introduced his students to medieval music and the music of Asia and Africa. Mr. Boulez felt his course was set; but he also knew he needed to go further into the 12-tone method that Schoenberg had introduced a generation before.
“I had to learn about that music, to find out how it was made,” he once told Opera News. “It was a revelation — a music for our time, a language with unlimited possibilities. No other language was possible. It was the most radical revolution since Monteverdi. Suddenly, all our familiar notions were abolished. Music moved out of the world of Newton and into the world of Einstein.”
To start on this route, he took lessons in 1945-46 with René Leibowitz, a Schoenbergian who had settled in Paris. Soon, in works like his mighty Second Piano Sonata (1947-48), he was integrating what had been separate paths of development in the music of the previous 40 years: Schoenberg’s serialism with Stravinsky’s rhythmic innovations and Messiaen’s enlarged notion of mode. As he saw it, all these composers had failed to pursue their most radical impulses, and it fell to a new generation — specifically, to him — to pick up the torch.
Though he was outspoken about his historical role, he was much warier of talking about what his music expressed. There was the odd reference in his early writings to the poet and playwright Antonin Artaud; there was also an admitted kinship with the poetry of René Char, which he set to music in “Le Marteau Sans Maître” and other works. But he was also capable of ferocious abstraction, as in the first section of his “Structures” (1951) for two pianos, a test case in applying serial principles to rhythm, volume and color.
Read the entire article on nytimes.com
New book by David Herbert, Principal Timpanist. Symphonic Repertoire For Timpani: Mahler Symphonies No. 4-6.
David Herbert, Principal Timpanist of Chicago Symphony shares his insights from his many performances and recordings of the nine Mahler Symphonies. His interpretive analysis sets the tone for intelligent, expressive performances of these major orchestral works.. Congratulations David!
Click here for a link to the publisher to order the book.
A Positive Note-Things Aren’t as bad as you think! An interview with Bruce Ridge, Chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM)
by Melissa Trier Kirk, Lyric Opera Orchestra violist. As published in the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra Newsletter and Website.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Bruce Ridge, Chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM). Bruce, a bassist with the North Carolina Symphony and tireless advocate for the arts, has been travelling the country this summer, talking with musicians and spreading the positive news that charitable giving to the arts is at an all time high, and that many orchestras have emerged from the economic downturn of 2008 stronger than ever. This news runs counter to conventional wisdom, since what we often hear in the press is that U.S. orchestras are floundering and classical music is dying. Bruce’s message is that symphony and opera orchestras are more relevant than ever. Every year about this time he creates a list of positive developments for orchestras.
What inspired you to become an arts advocate?
Music fundamentally changed my life. My mother had a vinyl record collection that wasn’t so large but huge in variety including many classical recordings. As a child I had a terrible speech impediment and found school difficult. I loved the Beatles tune, “I Am the Walrus” which begins with classically hypnotic cello and bass lines, and Rachmaninoff ‘s “Variations on a Theme by Paganini”. In training my ear to replicate the music I was hearing I was able to overcome my speech impediment. Studies show that studying music as a child keeps students in school and improves mental health for folks well into their 80’s. My personal experience made me realize how critically important the arts are and that music is a force for good and beauty.
Why do you say that orchestras are more relevant than ever?
Symphony Orchestras build communities. Imagine the number of school children that the musicians of ICSOM reach on a daily basis. What I am seeing is that symphony orchestras are more necessary than ever. It is the nature of the press to write a negative story because that’s what sells. In 1970, UPI published a piece which predicted that 25 American orchestras were doomed to die. Today they are all still in business. The story that needs to be told especially coming out of the recession is how resilient American Orchestras are and how well they have survived. We rarely study our successes. Yes, some orchestras fail. According to American Express, 90% of new restaurants fail in their first year of business but that doesn’t mean we don’t like to eat! The fact is that charitable giving to the arts is at an all time high. In 2014, charitable giving to the arts was the fastest growing category of giving in America.
Talk more about the resilience you are seeing.
Many orchestras are thriving and advancing. The Cincinnati Symphony added $26 million to the endowment and will add 14 new musicians to the roster in the next few years. The simple fact is that people will give to organizations that inspire them and they don’t give to organizations that question their own sustainability. Orchestras that are putting out a positive message about what they mean to their community are seeing tremendous growth. People say that our audiences are aging, but the Cleveland Orchestra has doubled the number of students attending concerts in the past couple of years. They’ve done this by reaching out, inviting them in and creating a more appealing atmosphere. An organization that says it’s going to be around for along time serving its community into the future is far more likely to attract donations and audience members. No arts organization or business has ever solved its financial problems by offering an inferior product. Cutting and lowering our presence in the community doesn’t help.
Click here to read the entire interview at Chicagolyricoperaorchestra.com
By Tom Barnes August 14, 2015.
Humans have been making music since the beginning of time.
More recently, science has helped us start to understand it — everything from how its waves move through time and space to how it heals and empowers us. The more we discover, the more we recognize its importance and power. But the more we know, the more questions we have.
The past few years have produced some groundbreaking findings in our music knowledge. Here are seven of the most impressive:
1. Learning music has a positive effect on teenagers' brains.
When budgets are tight in America's schools, among the first areas cut are often music class offerings. But that is to the detriment of our children's futures, as a June study out of Northwestern University underlines.
Previous research has uncovered numerous benefits of music education for young children, including how it improves spatio-temporal reasoning, verbal skills and impulse control. The June study proves that musical training can have similarly powerful neurological impacts right up through adolescence.
Researchers found that music accelerates neural development and can improve phonological awareness language skills. "Although learning to play music does not teach skills that seem directly relevant to most careers, the results suggest that music may engender what educators refer to as 'learning to learn,'" Nina Kraus, senior study author and director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the School of Communication, said, according to Medical Xpress.
Click here to read the complete article at Music.Mic
From the blog: Mask of the Flower Prince.
The nonsensical ravings of a singing archaeologist. Really.
by Scott Chamberlain
Ah, “sustainable.” It is a buzzword of the moment, showing up in discussions ranging from the environment, manufacturing, agriculture… even the arts. Of course, everyone wants to be sustainable, thinking that they, their product, or their service will stand the test of time and last forever.
Like all popular buzzwords there is value to it, and I applaud the notion that we have to look at both the long-range prospects and the long-range effects of the things we do.
But as often happens, the term has been misused by people who fundamentally misunderstand its meaning.
I’d like this willful misuse of the term to stop—particularly among arts organizations.
A Misunderstood Concept
Over the past few years, labor disputes have rocked a number of performing arts institutions, including the Minnesota Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera. And new labor disputes have continued to pop up like dandelions, in places like Hartford, Connecticut and Binghamton, New York. In each of these cases, management explicitly argued that the organizations’ operations, programming, and labor contracts were no longer “sustainable.” In their words, these things represented a huge financial drain on the organizations and were killing the organizations from the inside. Similarly, leaders of the San Diego Opera used this same rationale to liquidate the company altogether.
How so? Three reasons come to mind.
First, their understanding of “sustainable” was far too narrow, focusing exclusively on a particular, financial criterion. Second, they were inappropriately using an understanding of the term derived from the for-profit arena, and trying to graft it onto their non-profitorganizations. And finally, in each and every case, they tried to make their organizations “sustainable” by imposing a simplistic set of solutions to the problem: sharp cuts in the compensation packages of their union musicians and workers, plus an equally sharp reduction in programming.
With respect, this is no way to build sustainability. On the contrary, this a recipe for disaster.
I propose a different way of looking at sustainability—using more holistic criteria that can better ensure that arts organizations can, in fact, thrive into the future.
The Arts as Non-Profit Businesses
First, a couple of points. Many people seem to think that non-profits, and non-profit arts organizations in particular, are not businesses. They are. Absolutely. An ensemble like the Minnesota Orchestra employs around 90 musicians, a similar number of full-time staff, and a comparable number of part-time staff. These are real people working at real jobs, who pay taxes, have mortgages, buy cars and other durable goods, go to school, and in all sorts of ways contribute to the economy. Plus, the Orchestra not only generates revenue itself, but serves as a catalyst for other economic activities such as restaurants and parking. The City of Minneapolis estimates it lost $2.9 million in parking, dining and other business as a direct result of the Minnesota Orchestra lockout.
And it’s not just the Minnesota Orchestra that has an impact. Each year, the City of Minneapolis produces the Creative Index report that analyzes the economic impact of the creative sector, including music, theater, and the arts as a whole. In 2013, the arts contributed $830 million into the city’s economy, with $311 million coming specifically from non-profit arts organizations. Also, approximately 5% of the entire workforce of Minneapolis worked in the creative sector, primarily as photographers, musicians, and writers.
These are real numbers, and it is clear that arts organizations—and non-profits generally—play a critical role in the economy and in the community.
But at the same time, a point that I’ve hammered home again and again here on my blog is that non-profits have to be recognized as non-profit businesses. They are fundamentally different from for-profit enterprises, and thrive by following a very different business model. Based on my own experience as President of the Board at an arts non-profit (the Minnesota Chorale), I’ve found that leading a nonprofit requires a whole different type of skills and strategies than are needed in for-profit business.
Non-profits stand apart in that they are designed to meet a critical social need, or provide an important service to the community. They are driven by a stated mission, and their success or failure is ultimately determined by how effectively they live up to that mission. Yes, there absolutely is a business and financial aspect to doing this, but the business and financial strategies and decisions are always in service of the outcomes, not the profits.
In recognition of this special status, the IRS grants non-profits 501 (c) (3) status, which creates a special tax status and allows them to fundraise to support their operations. This is key—a non-profit that engages in fundraising has very different set of income streams than a for-profit business, and has to act accordingly.
Fundraising is not a sign that the organization’s business model has failed, and it is not a last-minute, shameful attempt to balance the books. On the contrary, it is an integral part of the organization’s business model and overall financial strategy.
So again—to be clear, an arts organization like the Minnesota Orchestra or the Minnesota Chorale is a business. But we cannot lose sight that it is a non-profit business. And that changes the equation as to what makes it “sustainable.”
Click here to read the entire article at Mask of the Flower Prince
Written by Laurie Niles
Published: July 17, 2015 at 5:51 PM [UTC]
Some good news for music education in the United States: the U.S. Senate named music as a "core subject" in its Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), which passed Thursday with strong support on all sides, with a final vote of 81 to 17. "By naming music and arts as core subjects in the Every Child Achieves Act, the Senate has acknowledged and begun to address the national problem of the narrowing of the curriculum that has taken place under No Child Left Behind (NCLB) for more than a decade now," said the National Association for Music Education.
This did not happen without a major effort. Earlier in 2015, music advocates sent more than 14,000 letters to legislators, asking that "music" be specifically recognized and named in the legislation as a core academic subject.
Now the legislation goes to a conference committee to be reconciled with the House of Representatives's version, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5), which passed by a much narrower 218-213. (Here's more about it from the National Education Association>)
Continue reading the article at Violinist.com