Boulez seeks danger in virtuosity

Posted on: January 11, 2010

In Sunday’s (1/10) New York Times, Michael Kimmelman writes from Lucerne, Switzerland, “In a maroon turtleneck and loose-fitting gray suit, eyes on his score, Pierre Boulez took turns one late August morning here rehearsing the soloists for ‘Répons.’ Written in 1981 for six soloists, chamber orchestra and live electronics, it is the first major work he wrote using the electronic-music institute in Paris, Ircam. But it has rarely been performed, just a few dozen times. Now Mr. Boulez had young musicians from the Lucerne Festival Academy on hand. Intimations of jazz, Balinese gamelan, African drumming and Japanese music floated from welters of rapid passagework. ‘You are freer there, so to speak,’ he reminded the harpist where the score mandated improvisation. … On Saturday evening he conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in works by Schoenberg, Webern and Mahler at Carnegie Hall. Daniel Barenboim, who will conduct two other concerts with the orchestra (including music by Mr. Boulez on Sunday), is Mr. Boulez’s soloist for Schoenberg’s Piano Concerto. … ‘I like virtuosity, although not for the sake of virtuosity but because it’s dangerous,” was Mr. Boulez’s description of ‘Répons’ when we sat down to talk for a few hours after the rehearsal. By danger he meant that music, to be worth anything—which is to say to be new—can’t stick to safe ground but must entail some risk and effort.”

Posted January 11, 2010