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Pierre Boulez awarded
The Cleveland Orchestra's eighteenth
annual Distinguished Service Award

Institution bestows its highest honor to Boulez for his nearly 50-year artistic partnership

Release Date:  03-February-2014

CLEVELAND – Pierre Boulez has been chosen to receive the eighteenth annual Cleveland Orchestra Distinguished Service Award, honoring a person or organization that has provided continuing exemplary service to the Musical Arts Association.  The honor is awarded by Dennis W. LaBarre, President of the Board of Trustees of the Musical Arts Association, the parent organization of The Cleveland Orchestra, Severance Hall, and Blossom Music Center, on behalf of a committee made up of Orchestra Trustees, musicians, and staff.

Pierre Boulez has conducted The Cleveland Orchestra over a time span of nearly fifty years – the longest for any conductor throughout the Orchestra’s history.  Since making his American professional conducting debut with the Orchestra at the invitation of George Szell in 1965, Mr. Boulez has led the Orchestra in more than 220 concerts.

Executive Director Gary Hanson said, “This award is in recognition of our genuine appreciation for Pierre Boulez’s decades of service to The Cleveland Orchestra.  He has given us the gift of great music, new music, and the joy of music-making.  We are grateful for what he has taught us and honored by his peerless international legacy.”

In addition to Severance Hall and Blossom Music Center concerts, Pierre Boulez has led numerous tour performances, among them concerts at Carnegie Hall and in Paris and Tokyo.  Works that he has conducted, by composers ranging from Giovanni Gabrieli, Rameau, Handel, and J.S. Bach to Marc-André Dalbavie and Hanspeter Kyburz, span six centuries.

Pierre Boulez was appointed the Orchestra’s first Principal Guest Conductor in 1969 and served as Musical Advisor for two seasons beginning shortly after Szell’s death in 1970.  In 1986, he conducted the Orchestra in two weeks of “Great Composers of Our Time” concerts featuring his music.

Mr. Boulez has recorded a variety of works with The Cleveland Orchestra.  These recordings have won five Grammy Awards (for works by Berlioz, Debussy, and Stravinsky).  Mr. Boulez’s complete recorded cycle of the nine Mahler symphonies features Symphonies Nos. 4 and 7 with The Cleveland Orchestra.  His most recent recordings with the Orchestra, made in February 2010, are of the Adagio from Mahler’s Symphony No. 10, Mahler’s Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn (with soloists Magdalena Kozená and Christian Gerhaher), and both Ravel Piano Concertos (with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloist).  The Mahler program was broadcast for a second time on PBS stations nationally on January 1, 2014.

The Distinguished Service Award presentation will take place onstage at the beginning of the Orchestra’s Thursday, February 6 concert.  With great regret, Mr. Boulez is unable to come to Cleveland to conduct his planned concerts in February, due to health issues, and will not be present to accept his award.  Joela Jones, the Orchestra’s principal keyboardist, will speak about Mr. Boulez, on behalf of the Orchestra.

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French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez is regarded as one of the world’s most distinguished musicians.  His 2009 Kyoto Prize reaffirms the importance of his compositions and activities as author, teacher, conductor, and advocate of contemporary music.  He celebrated his eighty-fifth birthday in 2010 with a series of concerts with the orchestras of Chicago, New York, and Cleveland.  Mr. Boulez made his American professional orchestra debut with The Cleveland Orchestra in March 1965.  In 1969, he became the Orchestra’s first principal guest conductor. Following the death of music director George Szell in July 1970, he served as musical advisor through the 1971-72 season.  He has been a frequent guest conductor with the Orchestra in the decades since.

Pierre Boulez was born on March 26, 1925, in Montbrison, France.  After initial training in mathematics, he studied piano, composition, and choral conducting at the Paris Conservatory, where his teachers included Olivier Messiaen and René Leibo­witz.  In 1953, Mr. Boulez founded a modern music concert series that later became the Domaine Musical.  Throughout the next decade, he taught at Basel University and in Darmstadt, and was a visiting professor at Harvard University.  He later joined the faculty at the Collège de France.

In 1971, Pierre Boulez became music director of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, holding the posts until 1975 and 1977, respectively.  In 1974, French President Georges Pompidou invited Mr. Boulez to establish and direct a music research center — the Institut de Recherche et de Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM).  He also founded the Ensemble InterContemporain, and now holds honorary positions with both organizations.

Pierre Boulez has fostered close relationships with the world’s major orchestras and opera companies.  He currently holds the title of conductor emeritus with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, having served as principal guest conductor from 1995 to 2005.  Highlights of his conducting career include the inaugural concert of the Cité de la musique in Paris, a four-orchestra festival of his compositions in Tokyo, and tours with the London Symphony Orchestra celebrating his 70th, 75th, and 80th birthdays.  In 1976, Mr. Boulez led the centenary production of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung cycle at Bayreuth at the request of Wolfgang Wagner, conducting the production by Patrice Chéreau through five summer festivals.  The filming of the production was seen on television world-wide.  He served as composer-in-residence at Salzburg’s Mozartwoche, and conducted Mahler’s complete symphonies at Carnegie Hall.

An exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since 1992, Pierre Boulez has focused much of his discography on 20th-century works.  His recordings have garnered Gramophone, Echo, and Deutscher Schallplatten awards, and more than twenty-five Grammys.  Mr. Boulez has also received the Glenn Gould Prize, the Wolf Prize, numerous honorary doctorates, and many other awards. 
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The Musical Arts Association established the Distinguished Service Award in 1996 to recognize ongoing and extraordinary service to the Orchestra.  Written nominations are reviewed by a committee currently chaired by Musical Arts Association Trustee Marguerite B. Humphrey.

Previous Distinguished Service Award recipients are: Dorothy Humel Hovorka (1996-97), David Zauder (1997-98), Ward Smith (1998-99), Christoph von Dohnányi (1999-2000), Gary Hanson (2000-01), John Mack (2001-02), Richard J. Bogomolny (2002-03), Thomas W. Morris (2003-04), Alex Machaskee (2004-05), Klaus G. Roy (2005-06), John D. Ong (2006-07), Gerald Hughes (2007-08), Louis Lane (2008-09), Clara Taplin Rankin (2009-10), Robert Conrad (2010-11), Richard Weiner (2011-12), and Tamar and Milton Maltz (2012-13).