1st Edition

Pierre Boulez’s sur Incises and its World

By Peter O'Hagan Copyright 2025
    344 Pages 105 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Performer and researcher Peter O’Hagan studies the musical style of Pierre Boulez during his final creative period, by means of a detailed consideration of the ensemble work sur Incises, which stands at the heart of Boulez’s later output.


    O’Hagan offers a unique blend of perceptions stemming from playing as well as analysing Boulez’s piano music. It is examined in the context of the group of works based on the cipher derived from the name of the dedicatee, Paul Sacher. With one exception, these works are dominated by the keyboard, and sur Incises is examined in relation both to them and to the composer’s output as a whole. An absorbing narrative elucidates the complex evolution of sur Incises, informed by a study of the considerable body of sketches and drafts. O’Hagan sheds new light on the creative process, not only in this work, but more generally on Boulez as a dominant force in music since 1950.


    The book will be of interest not only to specialists in the field of contemporary music but to musicology students and a wider public interested in the work of one of the dominating creative personalities of our time. 

    PART 1

    Pierre Boulez and Paul Sacher

    1.     Mein Lieber Pierre … Cher Paul

    2.     The cipher at play

    3.     Spirals

    PART 2

    The culmination of a friendship

    4.     Derivations and Fragments

    5.     To Paul Sacher on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday

    6.     primus inter pares?

    7.     Variations and reminiscences

    8.     A coda - and a codetta

    9.     Imagine… a blank page

    Appendix: Interview with Dimitri Vassilakis


    Peter O’Hagan is a pianist and writer specialising in contemporary music. He is editor of British Music of the 1990s (Ashgate, 2003), co-editor of Boulez Studies (2016) and author of Pierre Boulez and the Piano (Routledge 2016).