Pierre Boulez is among the most influential contemporary musicians, as both a composer and a conductor. He is known principally for his extension of the techniques of serialism beyond the limits of the Second Viennese School of Schoenberg, under the strong influence of his teacher Messiaen, into a logical style that brings with it a paradoxical freedom. His career as a conductor has brought him engagements with the most famous orchestras in a relatively wide repertoire, from Rameau to Wagner to the contemporary.
The music Boulez has written for piano includes three sonatas, the last involving an element of chance in the possible choices of order offered to performers. The first part of Structures I, for two pianos, was first performed by Messiaen with the composer in 1952, and Structures II was first performed by Yvonne Loriod and Boulez at Donaueschingen in 1961.
Vocal and Instrumental Music
The compositions of Boulez include works for various groups of instruments. Le Marteau sans maître is scored for alto, alto flute, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, percussion and viola; Improvisation sur Mallarmé I (the second part of Pli selon pli—Fold by Fold) is scored for soprano, harp, tubular bells, vibraphone and four percussion, while Improvisation II adds celesta and piano. Improvisation sur Mallarmé III is for soprano and orchestra. The choice of instruments here, as in Éclat and other works, is seemingly eclectic, certainly unusual, but logical in its relation to the music, much of which remains open to further development.