London's summer feast of classical music, the BBC Proms, has just announced its 2016 line-up, featuring an impressive array of international artists in concerts at the Royal Albert Hall and other venues from 15 July to 10 September.
One of the most hotly anticipated events of the Proms season in the past few years has been the annual concert of the John Wilson Orchestra. This year they return with their signature slick performances of Great American Songbook and Hollywood musical treasures, this time marking the 120th annivesrary of Ira Gershwin's birth. Their forthcoming album, Gershwin in Hollywood, will be available next month, and was recorded during their Royal Albert Hall concert in November 2015.
Meanwhile, French pianist Alexandre Tharaud leads a cabaret-inspired 'Satie Prom' tribute to Erik Satie on the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.
Another tribute to an iconoclastic French musician: Ensemble Intercontemporain pay homage to their founder, conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, who died in January at the age of 90. Boulez recorded extensively for Erato between 1966 and 1992; these pioneering recordings have been collected in a 14-CD boxed set.
Also returning to the Proms this year is the young British ensemble Aurora Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Collon. They have previously performed Mozart's Symphony No.40 and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony at the Proms from memory - a daring feat. This year, these immensely talented musicians again take up the challenge with Mozart's Symphony No.41 'Jupiter' - and not a single music stand in sight. Always pushing boundaries, the group has recorded two albums for Warner Classics: Road Trip and Insomnia.
Martha Argerich's 75th birthday celebrations this year will continue with the Liszt Piano Concerto: Daniel Barenboim conducts the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra for the occasion.
Sir Antonio Pappano is a veteran of large-scale operatic events, as his recent award-winning Aïda recording attests. This year, with his Royal Opera House forces, he presents a concert performance of Mussorgsky's grand opera Boris Godunov, Bryn Terfel taking the title role.
See the full programme of 2016 Proms events here.
With the death of Pierre Boulez on 5 January, 2016 at Baden-Baden, comes the end of an era in contemporary classical music. The French composer, conductor, pedagogue and fierce defender of the arts presided over the postwar musical milieu in Europe, championing the pioneering music of his fellow composers as a redoutable spokesperson for the avant-garde.
Boulez's 90th birthday, on 26 March 2015, was celebrated internationally, but nowhere more reverently than at the freshly-inaugurated Philharmonie de Paris, where his Ensemble Intercontemporain has taken up residency. There, a major exhibition and series of concerts paid tribute to this titan of music in the twentieth century.
Born in 1925 in Montbrison, Boulez was to become one of the most distinguished graduates of Olivier Messiaen's harmony classes in the 1940s. He immediately immersed himself in the musical avant-garde of Stockhausen and Cage. As a conductor, he brought the same vigour and discipline to Wagner's Ring Cycle and Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps as he did to his own compositions and those of his peers.
A pioneer of electroacoustic music, Boulez founded and directed IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) in Paris in the 1970s. He was also an incisive (often scathing) commentator and polemicist, active particularly in French musical life in his support of the construction of the Opéra Bastille, the Cité de la Musique and, most recently, the Philharmie de Paris.
In between the years recording for CBS (now Sony) and Deutsche Grammophon, Boulez's friendship with Michel Garcin, the historic producer of Erato, led him to record for the French label a collection of contemporary works otherwise absent from his discography, and unparelleled as a survey of the 20th-century avant-garde through the eyes of one of its most influential exponents.
Boulez's complete recordings for Erato between 1966 and 1992 were released in a 14-CD anthology last year to mark his 90th birthday. In addition to music by Boulez himself (Pli selon pli, Le visage nuptial, Le soleil des eaux and more), the repertoire ranges from two founding masters of Modernism – Stravinsky and Schoenberg – through Boulez’s teacher Messiaen – and Elliott Carter (born 17 years before Boulez) to composers of Boulez’s own generation – Berio, Ligeti, Xenakis and Kurtág – and composers of the generation that followed him, such as Hugues Dufourt, Brian Ferneyhough, Jonathan Harvey and York Höller.
In the words of Boulez himself: "Music is a labyrinth with no beginning and no end, full of new paths to discover, where mystery remains eternal." Vale.
Born on 26 March 1925 in a town north-west of Saint-Etienne, Pierre Boulez was to become Messiaen's star pupil at the Paris Conservatoire, entering the composition class of 1944.
Before long, Boulez established himself at the forefront of the post-war avant-garde; as a composer creating arresting sound worlds, as in Le marteau sans maître, and as an uncompromising conductor and outspoken champion of his contemporaries.
Whether founding the IRCAM institution for electroacoustic and computer music in Paris in the 1970s, conducting Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring with uncanny mastery and insight, premiering a new work with his Ensemble Intercontemporain, Boulez's career takes us on a journey through twentieth-century music.
To celebrate this modern music giant's 90th birthday today, Erato has released a 14-CD boxed set of his complete recordings for the label from 1966 to 1992. This fascinating retrospective explores three distinct categories. The first consists of music by Boulez's illustrious predecessors, Stravinsky and Schoenberg. The second consists of works by composers whose preoccupations with form and musical language have to a greater or lesser extent chimed with Boulez's own: from Elliott Carter to Brian Ferneyhough, Gérard Grisey and Hughes Dufourt, via Iannis Xenakis, Luciano Berio, György Kurtag and Harrison Birtwistle. The final group consists of music by Boulez himself.
This month Boulez features on the cover of BBC Music Magazine for an in-depth article on the French firebrand. The Philharmonie de Paris (of which he was a staunch supporter from the beginning) has inaugurated a high-profile exhibition devoted to Boulez's life and music, with special events and concerts for the maestro's birthday weekend. And in April, the Barbican in London hosts a Boulez at 90 Festival featuring the London Symphony Orchestra and Boulez's own Ensemble Intercontemporain. Joyeux anniversaire, maestro!
From Bowie to Boulez: the towering Philharmonie de Paris arts complex may have a enormous banner of David Bowie flying out front for its current blockbuster exhibition, but today the Philharmonie 2 celebrates another giant of modern music with the launch of a major retrospective on Pierre Boulez.
The formidable French composer, conductor and pedagogue turns 90 on 26 March. The founder of IRCAM and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and an outspoken supporter of the Philharmonie, he is the fascinating subject of an exhibition which opens today and runs until June 2015. A Boulez Weekend program of concerts and events opens proceedings on 20-22 March.
The exhibition charts the rise of Messiaen's precocious, pioneering pupil from the mid 1940s, his stint as an ondes martenot player for the theatre, his encounters with fellow composers John Cage, Edgar Varèse, Stockhausen and Stravinsky himself as well as artists Joan Miró and Alberto Giacometti, accompanied at each turn by manuscripts in Boulez's excruciatingly tiny handwriting, footage and audio interviews. At 90, he still looms large in the avant-garde music world.
As a conductor of both his own works and the modern classics, his recordings have become legendary. To mark this milestone year, Erato has released Boulez's complete recordings (between 1966 and 1992) for the label in a 14-CD boxed set. The anthology includes two discs devoted to Boulez's own groundbreaking compositions (Le Visage nuptial, Le Soleil des eaux, Dialogue de l'ombre double etc) as well as his particularly insightful interpretations of music by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, his mentor Messiaen, Berio, Xenakis, Elliott Carter and more. An entire century in music.
Pierre Boulez: The Complete Erato Recordings out now.
Pierre Boulez has received a Lifetime Achievement Award at this weekend's GRAMMYs, along with the likes of the Bee Gees and George Harrison (posthumously).
The French conductor-composer and founder of the Ensemble Intercontemporain has been at the forefront of the European avant-garde since the 1950s – he was a major champion of the Philharmonie de Paris which opened last month. As one of the most influential and fiercely outspoken figures in classical music in the 20th century, he is hailed not only for his own compositions but as one of the great maestros of our time in music from Wagner to Stravinsky, to the most demanding contemporary works (including his own).
This accolade is the iconoclast's 26th GRAMMY, placing him among the Top Five most awarded musicians in the academy's 57-year history.
Boulez, who turns 90 next month, recorded extensively for Erato from the 1960s to the 1990s. The label celebrates this major milestone with the release of one of the most significant collections of his work as both composer and conductor: a 14-CD boxed set of Boulez's complete oeuvre for Erato.
The anthology makes a distinctive survey of the 20th century: In addition to music by Boulez himself, the repertoire ranges from two founding masters of Modernism – Stravinsky and Schoenberg – through Boulez’s teacher Messiaen – and Elliott Carter (born 17 years before Boulez) to composers of Boulez’s own generation – Berio, Ligeti, Xenakis and Kurtág – and composers of the generation that followed him, such as Hugues Dufourt, Brian Ferneyhough, Jonathan Harvey and York Höller.