French composer and champion of 20th Century music Pierre Boulez has won the 2001 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition. The $200,000 Grawemeyer Award is considered the top prize in international music composition.
Boulez received the award for “Sur Incises,” a 40-minute chamber work written for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists. The work was premiered Aug. 8, 1998, by the Ensemble Intercontemporain at the Edinburgh International Festival. It received its American premiere in September 1998 by the Students of Juilliard School.
The Grawemeyer Foundation received 172 nominations for the Year 2001 music composition award, including entries from 24 countries in addition to the United States.
About Pierre Boulez
Composers, critics and musicians proclaim Pierre Boulez a towering figure in the field of contemporary music. During a career that is entering its seventh decade, he has earned a reputation as one of the 20th Century’s most important and influential composers, conductors and teachers.
Born in Montbrison, France, in 1925, Boulez studied under renowned French composer Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory. He became music director of the Renaud-Barrault Company at the Theatre Marigny in Paris in 1948. In 1954 he founded the “domaine musical,” a concert series dedicated to the performance of modern music. He remained its director until 1967.
He has served as music director of the New York Philharmonic, chief conductor of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Chicago and Cleveland symphony orchestras. From 1977 to 1992, he served as director of the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique, an experimental music research center he had founded in 1974 in Paris. He is the founder and president of the Ensemble InterContemporain and co-founder of the music center “CitŽ de la musique” in Paris.
In 1992, he conducted Peter Stein’s new production of Debussy’s PellŽas et MŽlisande with the Welsh National Opera. That production was named Opera Production of the Year 1992 at the International Classical Music Awards.
As a composer, Boulez began receiving international acclaim in the 1940s and 1950s for his experimental music based on the 12-tone system, including works scored for electronic instruments. He also was a leading advocate of extending serial principles beyond melody and harmony to include other elements of music, such as dynamics, rhythm, tone color and pitch.
Even with his heavy conducting schedule, Boulez continues to compose. His most recent work, “Notations VII,” was premiered in Chicago in 1999.
In 1995, Boulez was awarded the German Record Critics Award for his contribution to 20th-century music, named “Artist of the Year” by the magazine “Gramophone” and honored at the Victories de la Musique in France. In 1996 Boulez received the Berlin Arts Prize, and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music awarded him the Polar Music Prize.
Boulez’ 75th birthday was celebrated throughout Europe in March 2000. London’s Royal Festival Hall commissioned 12 top composers, including 1987 Grawemeyer winner Harrison Birtwistle, to write short piano pieces in his honor. The Royal Festival Hall also organized a weekend of concerts, workshops, talks and films. Schools throughout England took part in an Internet project, sponsored by the London Sinfonietta, that allowed children to explore his music through on-line workshops.