Author Topic: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)  (Read 105566 times)

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Offline Brewski

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Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« on: January 17, 2008, 10:54:31 AM »
Apparently no Boulez thread!  :o  Just to get the ball rolling, tonight I'm seeing this concert at Zankel Hall.  I haven't heard Le Marteau live, although I have the recording below, also with Hilary Summers as the soloist.  And I haven't yet heard the Lucerne Ensemble, so looking forward to that, too.

Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble
Pierre Boulez, Artistic Director and Conductor
Hilary Summers, Contralto

Boulez: Le Marteau sans maître 
Boulez: sur Incises 

--Bruce
« Last Edit: January 06, 2016, 09:08:12 AM by knight66 »
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
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springrite

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2008, 11:04:07 AM »
Oh, boy! If there is one work by Boulez I'd love to hear LIVE it would be Le Marteau! Actually I only acquired it late last year, belatedly (since I know many people who consider it to be his best work), on my trip to Canada. It is indeed magnificent!

This work now is heading to or near the top of my list of favorite Boulez work, the others include Pli selon Pli, Repons and Explosant ...

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2008, 11:23:00 AM »
Having heard oncle Pierre conduct both works in Zankel before, I'll skip tonight. But it's a marvelous experience - especially as musicians are so much more secure in performing these works than they were even ten years ago.

The Boulez that I most want to hear live is Pli selon Pli. There was a performance of three sections in Buffalo, NY, some months ago (omitting the complex outer movements Don and Tombeau - without which PsP is much diminished), but I couldn't justify the long trip from NYC if the whole work was not to be performed. Other than that, I don't think it's been done in the US for decades, if at all.

Still, on recordings, I favor Boulez's earlier performances of PsP and LMsM. The Sony PsP, for example, is sharper and more dynamic than the more serenely coloristic sounds Boulez draws from musicians today on DGG. As he's become a grand old man, some of the fire has gone out of his belly . . . .
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2008, 11:40:32 AM »
It hardly needs saying that music conceived in a purely abstract way will be arid & mostly meaningless.

I would substitute "can be" for "will be," since abstract methods don't necessarily always yield meaningless results, IMHO.

It's hard to say, of course, whether his music will withstand the test of time, although I suspect a few works--Le Marteau and the piano sonatas--will probably be performed now and then.  I agree with all the comments on the stature of Répons--it's a fave--but it bothers me that its technical hurdles may prevent it from being performed very often.  If people can't hear it (and for this purpose I mean live), that somehow seems not ideal.

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Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
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Offline toledobass

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2008, 11:42:27 AM »
Sweet Jeezus Bruce.  Although I don't listen to it regularly,  I love that album.  Please give us a blow by blow review.  Wish I could be there.


Allan

Offline Brewski

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2008, 11:47:39 AM »
Sure thing, Allan!  I may even do a "full" article for MusicWeb

Also forgot to mention that I heard Hilary Summers live last year in George Benjamin's eerie Into the Little Hill, a reworking of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  She was marvelous.

Edit: here's a photo from that.  Summers is on the left in red, with Anu Komsi and the Ensemble Modern. 

--Bruce
« Last Edit: January 17, 2008, 11:50:47 AM by bhodges »
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
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paulb

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2008, 11:49:06 AM »
Apparently no Boulez thread!  :o  Just to get the ball rolling, tonight I'm seeing this concert at Zankel Hall.  I haven't heard Le Marteau live, although I have the recording below, also with Hilary Summers as the soloist.  And I haven't yet heard the Lucerne Ensemble, so looking forward to that, too.

Lucerne Festival Academy Ensemble
Pierre Boulez, Artistic Director and Conductor
Hilary Summers, Contralto

Boulez: Le Marteau sans maître 
Boulez: sur Incises 

--Bruce

Since hearing 3 Youtube clips last week, I placed the 4 cd set on  wish list, will be moved to order list next week, cash crunch is easing.

Here's one of the 3 I watched.
Though strong influences of Schonberg's Moses and Aron, still Boulez manages to bring forth a  distinct creative voice. This is part of a  larger work, I believe Pli selon Pli.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhcZM7cFy_c

and Boulez's sonata 1 with Aimard, also made a   powerful impression. Though I'm sure others may feel differently.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBhXrFp0AXE&feature=related


I was less impressed with this sur incises. Not enough interconnectivity/relationship  between the various percussions..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tQe59D5Pzs&feature=related

Though when the 4 cd set arrives, my opinion perhaps may alter once i hear the entire work.

« Last Edit: January 17, 2008, 11:55:43 AM by paulb »

Offline Brewski

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2008, 11:57:57 AM »
Thanks for posting that video.  It's actually Le soleil des eaux, which I haven't heard, so that's helpful.  And just saw the clip with Aimard, who at this point can probably play just about anything.  0:)

--Bruce
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Offline Brewski

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2008, 12:11:48 PM »
er Bruce, i did say "mostly meaningless"...not always...as I went on further to explain. The huge bulk of so-called modern music is so overstretched & neurotic in moving "forward", and which yields a tiny (but amazing) quotient of quality 'new' music. Remember the malaise of musical alienation that Western art music has been going through ... it yields maybe an iota of consolidation/ 'development' ... and a ton of rootless hypothetical drivel. Trying to reinvent the wheel all the time (neurotic western art) doesn't necessarily mean the wheel has been reinvented. And what now masquerades as change is mostly contrived, intellectual conceptions of form (non-organic) and fatuous 'logic' orientated intellectual validations to accompany them. Most of this music is conceived exactly the wrong way round - from outside in. It is poor art. Even invalid art. Yep it's that word again: invalid. There's real change ... which might be less dramatic outwardly ... and there's fake change, which is just failure. People who are catalysts to change aren't always as musically successful as we are led to think. Schoenberg is a good example. Boulez considered him a failure, though a heroic one. I think that is an accurate summary. If, say 20 years on, interesting is all that I can say about most modern music, then it is not going to be enough to be great to me. This is why I don't think hardly any of it has "legs".

At this point (just very briefly, since unfortunately I don't have time at the moment to discuss at length), all I can say is that my experience with most modern music has been very different, although I respect your viewpoint and certainly agree that there is poor art running around.  (A concert a few years ago comes to mind, by a group known for its improvisation, and for the final piece they donned white masks.  :-X  I was wincing.)  But all I can say is that my experience with many different living composers has been overwhelmingly positive.

I don't expect most people to like Boulez, and he doesn't seem to represent the field, as such.  Boulez may have (rightly or wrongly) ended up as the poster boy for modernism, but at this point there are far too many composers working, in too many different styles, to give Boulez the "leader" spot.  I doubt he thinks much of Andriessen, for example, whom I think is also one of the century's most influential composers, but is completely different.

--Bruce
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
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Twitter: @brucehodgesny

paulb

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2008, 12:36:41 PM »
er Bruce, i did say "mostly meaningless"...not always...as I went on further to explain. The huge bulk of so-called modern music is so overstretched & neurotic in moving "forward", and which yields a tiny (but amazing) quotient of quality 'new' music. Remember the malaise of musical alienation that Western art music has been going through ... it yields maybe an iota of consolidation/ 'development' ... and a ton of rootless hypothetical drivel. Trying to reinvent the wheel all the time (neurotic western art) doesn't necessarily mean the wheel has been reinvented. And what now masquerades as change is mostly contrived, intellectual conceptions of form (non-organic) and fatuous 'logic' orientated intellectual validations to accompany them. Most of this music is conceived exactly the wrong way round - from outside in. It is poor art. Even invalid art. Yep it's that word again: invalid. There's real change ... which might be less dramatic outwardly ... and there's fake change, which is just failure. People who are catalysts to change aren't always as musically successful as we are led to think. Schoenberg is a good example. Boulez considered him a failure, though a heroic one. I think that is an accurate summary. If, say 20 years on, interesting is all that I can say about most modern music, then it is not going to be enough to be great to me. This is why I don't think hardly any of it has "legs".
This is a  good post.
And i assume you have other posts which tend in this direction, with the belief that much late modern 20th C music is questioanble as to its content being truly High art. Only the passage of time will have to test the works, like the kiln fire of pottery.
I'm in sympathy with you on this issue. I draw extremely strick lines as to what makes my list as  embracing that tradition known as CM, otherwise known as High Art.
As i say, i can't make a  solid opinion on Boulez until I get the 4  cd set. My hunch is that some of his works have this creative essense that can be considered High Art, while others may not offer this essence i'm after.

But i agree most late 20th C music is a  sub category of the traditional genre known as CM. No  thats not accurate.
i have to feel that Elliot Carter had clearly understood what minimalism and other avant garde music really is in essence, when he stated some yrs ago, that these modern peculiarly odd idosyncratic  expressions  are "the death of music'. I realize this is not the topic for bringing up Carter's controversial comment, but couldn't resist.

yeah i realize that the old school is still harping this same line about Schonberg as "the devil himself', so said the amazon reviewer of what his piano teacher said to him about Schonberg.
The guy found out, after actually listening to Schonberg  yrs later that his teacher was mistaken, and was making a  projection out of ignorance and prejudice.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2008, 02:37:04 PM by paulb »

paulb

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2008, 01:18:42 PM »
I put the bulk of Elliott Carter's music in the same category as Boulez.

Well considering Boulez is the most important conductor in the 20th C,  your comment says alot.
I was hesitant to explore Boulez, due to the fact it was difficult to believe a  great conductor at the same time had the creative energy to bring forth worthwhile compositions. The Youtube offerings took me by surprise as to what Boulez has to offer.
how much of an influence was Varese, Carter and Stravinsky upon Boulez? 

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2008, 06:25:01 AM »
I put the bulk of Elliott Carter's music in the same category as Boulez.

Nothing like painting with a broad brush. Carter's style and aesthetics are quite different from Boulez's.

And yet despite the tirades above - "neurotic," "invalid," "abstract," what have you - you admit that:

Quote
"I even like some of it, and admire him.... I think he (and other big modern music names of the 2nd half of the 20th who fall into this category) still did manage to produce at least a few powerful & meaningful nuggets that best describes the modern zeitgeist, and that should be assimulated with the canon of great works...
For Boulez earlier things like the Piano Sonatas & Le Marteau sans Maitre...great. And he's churned out some remarkable pieces in his late-years, in particular Repons & Sur Incises. Love those."

In all honesty I don't understand your position. Part of it sounds like knee-jerk rejection of modernism. But then you have some positive things to say about Boulez's music that are not what I'd expect from the orthodox anti-modernist stance. If you like and love some of Boulez's music, why undercut your apparent admiration with all this theoretical baggage?
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2008, 06:35:23 AM »
Well considering Boulez is the most important conductor in the 20th C,  your comment says alot.

Certainly not a point that can be asserted quite so dogmatically. There are any number of other 20th c. conductors at least as important as Boulez, in terms of their influence on shaping performance style.


I was hesitant to explore Boulez, due to the fact it was difficult to believe a  great conductor at the same time had the creative energy to bring forth worthwhile compositions.

Boulez was a composer first, and came to devote himself to conducting only in the 1960s after he had written many of his most important works. The bulk of his recent activities have been in conducting, and much as he may say that he wants to devote himself more to composition, he no longer appears to have the drive and concentration needed to be primarily a composer. (Bernstein, despite his very different personality and aesthetic, found himself in much the same position.) I especially admire Boulez's early works, and find some of the later ones (Derive II, Messagexquisse, etc.) less imaginative and spontaneous than the best of his early pieces. My feeling is that Boulez's primary attention to conducting in the past three decades is at once a reaction to the drying up of his creative energies, as well as a way of avoiding the concentration needed to truly compose. A career in both performance and composition poses a difficult problem in balance for the modern musician - a balance that was perhaps best achieved by Gustav Mahler.
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

Offline Brewski

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #13 on: January 18, 2008, 02:36:00 PM »
Last night's concert was really enjoyable, with Boulez offering comments just before each half.  Most interestingly, he mentioned the world premiere of Le Marteau in Baden-Baden, which he said required 50 hours of rehearsal, and the United States premiere in Los Angeles, which required sixty.  These musicians from the Lucerne Festival Academy did it in "eight or ten."  I do think that musicians today are much more comfortable with scores like these.  He was also asked about his tendency to expand his smaller works into larger ones, which Boulez traced directly back to the years when he began conducting Wagner, and his development of motifs over long spans of time. 

If Le Marteau continues to be fascinating, but a little impenetrable, sur Incises might be more immediately enjoyable (at least to me).  It seems more related to the glittering textures of Répons, albeit with no electronics.  The unusual scoring is for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists.  (Boulez has programmed this piece with Bartók's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion and Stravinsky's Les Noces with four pianos.)  It's about 40 minutes long, with the three trios of instruments echoing each other or as Boulez said, "playing ping pong," sometimes in huge waves of sound.  Much of the time I could only smile and shake my head, watching these young musicians playing, often bobbing their heads, clearly grooving on it.

For such a formidable musician, Boulez is really quite funny and charming.  Since he's "only" 82, I hope we have more appearances by him in store. 

--Bruce
Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.
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Twitter: @brucehodgesny

Joe Barron

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2008, 03:22:45 PM »
What,no clever, alliterative title for this thread? No "Boulez Bash" or "Pierre Pit"?

paulb

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #15 on: January 18, 2008, 04:15:20 PM »
Not painting with a broad brush, both Boulez & Carter fit under the umbrella of 2nd-half 20th modern classical music. I'm not an "anti-modernist". I have a large collection of contemporary music....I just don't think the bulk of modern music has much "legs" for many of the reasons i've mentioned...despite that, yes, many of the big names of the 2nd half of the 20th century (incl. Boulez & Carter) still did manage to produce at least a few good nuggets, and it's enough for a small modern canon to be carved out, that can be assimulated with the best of the 1st half of the 20th, and altogether to be assimulated with the best of the previous centuries...and orchestra directors & conductors better start picking out, programming, exposing & unlocking the wonders & mysteries of 20th/21st century classical music to audiences more often, more than a mere premiere performance, not enough of them are doing this...It should be the primary mission of every music director and soloist today. Familiarity is the key to unlocking much of the mystery of quality modern classical music! Because if you look at the reality of the situation, an entire century’s worth is grossly underrepresented in the concert hall, for the most part it's been left by the wayside...while the warhorses from the prior 125 years are being performed to the point that most concert-goers no longer even hear them...

James you raise some valid points.
Does and can late 20th C composers offer something of value in comparison with early 20th C composers?
Lets not bring in pre Debussy composers, thats  another epoch all together.
I have almost everything Carter scored and have found all to be high art. i'm not interested in gathering all the most popular composers music on my shelf. Only that which strikes me as offering something as unique as the did the major composers in the 19th C.
I've never quite understood the concept of seeing how much music can be crammed in between ones ears before death.  Whats the point of having a  hundred favorite composers?
I'm gald you point out that we have yet a  ways to go with bringing major late 20th C composers to the forefront in the concert halls. Refer to Joe baron's excellent comments on his recent experience of the all Carter piano recital with Oppens and carter present/NYC.
And Bruce's attendance of the Boulez program. Here we see some stirrings going on, but much more needs to happen.
Its doubtful the german audiences even know much about Hartmann. he passed away some 60 yrs now.
We have to wait for new young conductors to come along who wield a  iron baton and will only have the late 20th C as their special interest. This may take some yrs, as we have to wait til the antiquated conductors  move on to the "elysian fields".

Offline (poco) Sforzando

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #16 on: January 18, 2008, 04:33:23 PM »
What,no clever, alliterative title for this thread? No "Boulez Bash" or "Pierre Pit"?

How 'bout "The Boulez Bowl"?
"I don't know what sforzando means, though it clearly means something."

paulb

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #17 on: January 18, 2008, 05:01:52 PM »
How 'bout "The Boulez Bowl"?

as soon as i get the 4 cd set in, I may see if this would be appropriate
The Boulez's Banquet.
so far based on 2 of the 3 Youtube clips, all the ingredients seem to be there.
btw i was a  New Orleans chef in my younger days, I know food ;D

karlhenning

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2008, 09:23:32 PM »
Hah!

Offline duncan

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Re: Pierre Boulez (1925-2016)
« Reply #19 on: January 24, 2008, 02:08:14 PM »
What,no clever, alliterative title for this thread? No "Boulez Bash" or "Pierre Pit"?

Boulez Boulevard perhaps, although Laboratoire Boulez might be more appropriate.

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