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Thread: Pierre Boulez

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Default Pierre Boulez

    I couldnt find a thread and as Ive been getting into some of his music a lot lately, I thought Id make one.

    Boulez was a student of Messiaen. A very ideological man with great passion and from what Ive seen and read, great intellect. In his younger days he was known for attacking certain schools of music which didnt fit in with his view of art, but he is a little more moderate nowadays. He's written in quite a few different styles, total serialism to gestural music, and convinced Stravinsky to start writing in a serial style. Hes written a few great masterpieces imo; the 2nd piano sonata which caused the pianist to burst into tears upon first sight of the score; Le Marteau Sans Maitre, a beautiful serialist song cycle exploring subtle differences in timbre.

    He works slowly and often revises his works many times throughout his career.

    Of course he is also a fabulous conductor who brings great clarity to the score. I value his recordings, and also enjoyed seeing him conduct and rehearse in the Concertgebouw.

    The work im currently grappling are his Derives, particularly the 1st. Magnificent pieces.

    If you are a fan, I can recommend the book; 'conversations with Boulez', which was really illuminating.
    Last edited by emiellucifuge; Jun-07-2012 at 14:08.
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    Senior Member violadude's Avatar
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    I've only explored his piano sonatas in depth. The 2nd is certainly my favorite of the three. The 1st is really great too. I don't quite "get" the third yet. What do you think?
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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Nice post. I've got a 4-disc set on Erato which contains both 'core' output and also some of his lesser-know material but omits signature works such as the aforementioned Le marteau sans maitre and the 2nd piano sonata, so those would probably be the two principal works I'd turn to next whenever I get around to it. That said, 4 discs has been enough for me anyway over the years as they contain sufficient variety (and difficulty) to continue sustaining me for a long time to come!

    Of the recordings that feature Boulez as a conductor, I must give credit to his Bruckner 8. I bought it on spec more out of morbid curiosity than anything to see how his cold-fish Darmstadt logic (my preconception) would interact with Bruckner's epic religious-based soundworld but I needn't have worried - Boulez produced a performance that was both warm and clear and although it's one of the shortest 8ths I've heard it never sounds rushed or forced.
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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    He has made some fine recordings as a conductor. None of his compositions are useful to me.
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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    . None of his compositions are useful to me.
    Me neither! You utilitarian!
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    Boulez is probably my favourite living composer. My favourite works by him are the three piano sonatas, Pli selon pli, Éclat, Messagesquisse, …explosante-fixe…, Dérive 1 and Sur incises.

    It's a shame he has devoted so much time to conducting, for although a great conductor, he is an even greater composer. Unfortunately, the merits of his conducting vis-à-vis those of his music according to most are reminiscent of the position in which Mahler found himself over 100 years ago.
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    Senior Member Ukko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sequentia View Post
    Boulez is probably my favourite living composer. My favourite works by him are the three piano sonatas, Pli selon pli, Éclat, Messagesquisse, …explosante-fixe…, Dérive 1 and Sur incises.

    It's a shame he has devoted so much time to conducting, for although a great conductor, he is an even greater composer. Unfortunately, the merits of his conducting vis-à-vis those of his music according to most are reminiscent of the position in which Mahler found himself over 100 years ago.
    Bah! Humbug!

    On a more serious note:

    One of my Internet friends has been championing Boulez's music for decades. He persuaded me to 'make the effort'. I can find no way in; the hillbilly mentality maybe.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hilltroll72 View Post
    Bah! Humbug!

    On a more serious note:

    One of my Internet friends has been championing Boulez's music for decades. He persuaded me to 'make the effort'. I can find no way in; the hillbilly mentality maybe.
    Have you tried his harmonically "mellower" music?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxYCLbbW12c
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yB7adkok144
    Last edited by Sequentia; Jun-07-2012 at 20:28.

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by violadude View Post
    I've only explored his piano sonatas in depth. The 2nd is certainly my favorite of the three. The 1st is really great too. I don't quite "get" the third yet. What do you think?
    The third is a little mysterious in terms of performances and editions etc...

    Did you know it was a result of many articles and essays dealing with aleatorism in music? He criticised aleatoric practises and proposed a new method, this sonata being the product. It may help you to take a look at some of these writings.
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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    I have his three piano sonatas played by Idil Biret on Naxos, and also the second one played by Maurizio Pollini on his DGG collection of modern piano works. I think both are useful to appreciate this work, but I prefer Biret's more fiery and no-holds-barred style. I remember the first sonata for kind of having a sound-world not unlike Debussy, or kind of streching that aesthetic as far as it goes into atonal. The second sonata I remember for it's complex counterpoint, esp. the final movement, that kind of broken toccata, and the peaks and troughs I also hear in Webern's music. Then the third sonata I like for the way the keys are hit and allowed to decay and the strings just naturally resonate, kind of treating the piano as a percussion instrument rather than a mini orchestra. Gamelan?

    Gamelan, the feel of Asian music, is certainly present in Le Marteau Sans Maître, one of the most complex scores since Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (who admired the work greatly, he said it was one of the finest to come out of the younger generation). Boulez's changing time signatures and the onomatopoeia of the vocal part really bring the Surrealist poetry of Rene Char to life. This work is also part of a long line streching back to Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, a seminal work of song-cycle genre in the 20th century.

    I have the album which Vaneyes put an image of above (the third image), I don't mind the two shorter works - a piece for 8 cellos which is my favourite on the disc, and also an electroacoustic piece with solo violin, which is interesting if not much else - but I simply don't 'get' Sur Incises. Maybe it's too complex for me. But even Copland said that while Boulez produced fine scores, even he as a fellow composer found them overly complex, and could understand if even a seasoned classical listener would think similarly. Sur Incises is said to be like a musical labyrinth, so it's probably successful in that way, I can't make head nor tail of it.

    Of other works I've heard, the Derive pieces where interesting and had this visceral 'gut' impact on me.

    I have no time for his ideology, or his former ideology. But I can separate the man from his compositions. He may have mellowed in old age, but so too has the world changed around him. If he said the things he said when he was young - eg. that Shostakovich was like a third pressing of Mahler - not many people would agree with him today. Then there's IRCAM - the institute for electronic music research in Paris - which many see as a kind of white elephant.

    As for his conducting, I am okay with that, but I like my Second Viennese School composers to be done with a little more bite and a tad less detachment, but that may well be a matter of detail and very subjective.
    Last edited by Sid James; Jun-08-2012 at 03:21.
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    Senior Member Rapide's Avatar
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    The following recording was released recently. It encludes Boulez's Dérive 1 & 2, #2 is world premiere recording on this CD. They call for modest chamber forces without electronic extensions and are conceived as continuations of works in progress. All three also work with compositional techniques derived from canon and heterophony and each of them is dedicated to people close to Boulez himself.

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    Senior Member aleazk's Avatar
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    I have been listening to Boulez's 'Rituel', I think it's one of my favorites pieces of him. It has a very 'primitive' sound, like a modern and blurred version of some ancient funeral march. I see surreal images of a primitive funeral in the middle of a modern city, with glass buildings and angular details, but always in a dream like context, where you see nonsensical images but you, in the dream, don't perceive that they are nonsensical. I love that kind of images.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh_VCgc27U8
    Last edited by aleazk; Aug-16-2012 at 06:37.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aleazk View Post
    I have been listening to Boulez's 'Rituel', I think it's one of my favorites pieces of him. It has a very 'primitive' sound, like a modern and blurred version of some ancient funeral march. I see surreal images of a primitive funeral in the middle of a modern city, with glass buildings and angular details, but always in a dream like context, where you see nonsensical images but you, in the dream, don't perceive that they are nonsensical. I love that kind of images.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh_VCgc27U8
    I agree!

    I was lucky enough to see the Concertgebouworkest perform it a few months ago, and the spatial arrangement of the sound really added to my appreciation
    "Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody." - Rousseau

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    I'm listening to Eclat and I think I like it - at the very least I'm intrigued and fascinated. Very nice colors and textures.

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