Pierre Boulez directs his fetish repertoire: Debussy and Stravinsky, two great musical language innovators of the 20th century.
Boulez, born in 1925, is a leading composer and an influential conductor of contemporary music. His groundbreaking Debussy interpretations Nocturnes and Images freed Debussy from cliché. Boulez, with his astonishingly precise ear for pitch and sonority, appears to understand the language of his great predecessor like no other.
Boulez' legendary sense of rhythm comes into play in Stravinsky's innovative Rite of Spring (1913), recorded by the BBC in 1997: he is the ideal interpreter for it. Boulez conducts with precision and a deep understanding of the soundscapes of each composer: he "thinks music" and has confirmed himself as the authority on 20th century music.
Barenboim once said about him in the New York Times: "Pierre doesn't need to be an ideologue anymore. Once something is achieved, there is no need to insist on it. He said opera houses should be burned, but basically he was trying to turn the musical world into something more progressive than what it was. It was the same as Debussy writing on his visiting card, 'French Musician'. Debussy was looking for an alternative to Central European music. So he had to be radical at a certain moment."
London Symphony Orchestra. 1966
New Philharmonia Orchestra, Orchestre et Choeurs de l'ORTF