I am not going to repeat things you can already read, better said and better documented, in so many places these days. I do want to say that with Boulez dies one of the last people (in this small field of life called “classical music”) who was REALLY sure of what he was doing.
In 1931 a six-year-old boy listens in a radio (surely a pretty primitive one) to something that fascinates him. It is “The Nightingale” by Stravinsky. He is educated in a seminar or two, fights with his father to go study composition to Paris, where he absorbs everything like a sponge and fights successively with almost all his teachers, barks like a dog to be let into the establishment (his own words), once inside, he becomes an awesome conductor. An awesome composer, he already was, all the way back. He writes some of the most stunning works of his time (in which he includes the guitar), poetic and terribly complicated at the same time, and also polemical essays against everybody. He says opera theaters should be burned, and just a few years later conducts in Bayreuth. Age and success wash off bitterness and rage, but do not make him inoffensive. He writes new works, maybe not so stunning, but very beautiful. He spends a lot of time revising old works; there are works that take thirty or forty years to get to the final version. He invents IRCAM, a kind of futuristic think-tank which brings concrete results in the present.
At 85 he conducts his last concert with the Berlin Philharmonic. The program consists of his own “...explosante-fixe...” and guess what. “The Nightingale”. Not even Orson Welles could have scripted it better. Adieu, Pierre Boulez.