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Pierre Boulez: an all-purpose iconoclast

The death of Pierre Boulez at the age 90 robs the classical music world of one of its most talented, and controversial, characters

By Neil Norman  

French composer Pierre Boulez conducts the Paris Orchestra at the Louvre Museum, Paris, 2011 ©Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

It is hard to exaggerate the impact of Pierre Boulez on contemporary classical music. A musical polymath, Boulez was a composer, a pianist, a conductor, an essayist, critic and all-purpose iconoclast.

He was a modernist but his classical roots were unimpeachable. He saw music as a living, breathing art form that must challenge what…

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