Monday, 23 July 2012

Pierre Boulez

‘Here we go and here we go and here we go again…’ Status Quo

To its credit  BBC Three is undertaking a major retrospective of composer Pierre Boulez  And not before time. Boulez has been a constant in modern, contemporary music for a staggering sixty-six years. His contributions  (and not always comfortable ones!) have included a huge backlog of recordings, forever shedding insight into the music of, for example, Wagner, Berg, Debussy and Stravinsky. 

His clear analytical understanding of Anton Webern’s compositional processes were a revelation, allowing this great music, to put it simply, to make sense. His recording of the complete works of Webern is a landmark: a real jewel and a true labour of love.
But it is as a composer that Boulez will leave his most significant legacy. 

Like Webern, Boulez’ output is concentrated, meticulously worked and reworked to meet his incredibly high standard and artistic integrity. This week at the Proms we will have chance to hear a performance of his groundbreaking Le marteau sans maitre (Thursday 26th July), a seventies piece for seven cellos, Messagesquisse (Monday 23rd), and the 1998 Anthemes 2 for violin and electronics (Tuesday 24th) to name some of the performances we can hear live. 

And live music is where Boulez comes into his own. I remember going to a concert in London (late 80’s) where there was a Boulez retrospective. I cannot recall the whole programme ( a stunning performance of Eclat/Multiples and an amazing orchestration of an earlier piano piece, Notations), but it was the colours, the incredibly unique and  creative sound world which knocked me sideways, anyway, I digress…

And what is the proms also bigging-up? Beethoven and YET ANOTHER cycle of his symphonies (West-Eastern Divan Orchestra conducted by Daniel Barenboim). Great works, absolutely, but…well there you go.

And so who have the BBC selected as their the ‘composer of the week’?: King Ludvig, rockin’ all over the world, YET AGAIN.

Enjoy, Steve

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