Tag Archive: Pierre Boulez

A Weekend with Pierre Boulez…and Debussy, Duckworth, Beethoven, and Paavali Jumppanen, Pianist

Pierre Boulez in 1980. Photo Don Hunstein/Columbia Records.

When I approach a review, I usually try to objectify it in some way, especially if it’s about familiar music, not only in recognition of the the fact that I’m writing for a public readership, but also in recognition of the discrete nature of a work of art as an entity created by an individual working under a specific set of historical circumstances, even if it dates from two months ago. Boulez’s Répons is very much rooted in such a situation in 1981, with its connection to the history of electronic music—then still fairly young—and the foundation of IRCAM, an event which gave electronic music formal institutional support in Europe. However, my personal response to hearing it at the Park Avenue Armory was especially strong, and in this review I will stay with that.

Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic: A musical experience of a lifetime

Sir Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Philharmonic at Symphony Hall. Photo Robert Torres.

After the stunning concert with Simon Rattle leading the Berliner Philharmoniker at Boston’s Symphony Hall—Pierre Boulez’s scintillating Éclat followed (without intermission) by Mahler’s black sheep Symphony No. 7—I couldn’t stop shaking. There’s a lot of good music in Boston, but this was different—on a whole other level. And the audience knew it, felt it. Wasn’t it just what we needed to hear after the bruising election? People were not only cheering but weeping and hugging each other.

Openings: Boston Musica Viva plays Boulez, Marteau sans maître, and Nelsons and the BSO present Richard Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier

R. Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier: Andris Nelsons, Renée Fleming, Franz Hawlata, Susan Graham. Photo Winslow Townson.

One hoped and expected there would be performances of Pierre Boulez pieces in Boston this season to honor this great musician who died last winter. The Berlin Philharmonic, hardly a local group, will play one piece on its visit here in November. I don’t see anything else on the horizon. So, many thanks to Boston Musica Viva, our fine contemporary music ensemble now in its 48th year, for opening its season with Boulez’s perhaps most significant work, Le Marteau sans maître (The Hammer without a Master, 1954-57).

Maurizio Pollini Plays Chopin, Debussy and Boulez

Lion in winter. Concert audiences now whoop and whistle for their artists, and I couldn’t help but wonder how this affects Maurizio Pollini. At sixty-nine, he has been before the public for fifty years, ever since winning the Chopin International Competition in 1960 at the age of eighteen. His white hair is wispy on top (this is art, so let’s call it an aureole). He still walks briskly to the piano and hits the first keys with unnerving alacrity. When Rosa Ponselle made her London debut, the veteran diva Nellie Melba gave her a friendly warning: nothing but nothing could induce British audiences to give a standing ovation. Dame Nellie was reportedly quite put out when her young American rival earned a standing ovation at Covent Garden every night. Pollini earns the same, even when he ends his program, as he did last night, with Boulez’s fearsome Piano Sonata no. 2. One way to insure that posterity will consider you a fool is to mock modern music, but in the annals of unapproachable and uningratiating works, the Boulez sonata must attain a kind of summa.

Twentieth Century Rocks at LSO St Luke’s: Guildhall Ubu Ensemble play Adams, Boulez, Varèse, and Zappa

It was the title of the concert that first caught my eye, a pun and a gratuitous film reference joined in unholy wedlock, with no objections raised from my pew. Then I noticed the performers. The Guildhall Ubu Ensemble are apparently no mere youth orchestra composed of Guildhall students, but “the musicians of tomorrow playing the music of our time.” I would condemn the arrogance and dubious accuracy of that statement, were I not too busy praising the superb choice of name and happily envisaging a future where all musicians pretend to be influenced by seminal proto-Surrealist literature.

Boulez and Barenboim conduct the Vienna Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in Schoenberg, Webern, Boulez, Wagner and Beethoven

Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles, 1948

Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Daniel Barenboim, Conductor Carnegie Hall, January 15, 2010 Beethoven, Symphony No. 6, “Pastoral” Wagner, Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde Schoenberg, Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 Encore: J. Strauss Jr., Unter Donner und Blitz, Op. 324 Vienna…
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Music in a Time of Disaster…The Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Pierre Boulez, Carnegie Hall, January 16, 2010

Pierre Boulez

  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Pierre Boulez, conductor Carnegie Hall, January 16, 2010 Schoenberg, Chamber Symphony No. 2, Op. 38 Schoenberg, Piano Concerto, Op. 42 (Daniel Barenboim, soloist) Webern, Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 Mahler, Adagio from Symphony no. 10 in…
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