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Le Domaine musical: 1956-1967
Volume 2:
CD1: Igor Stravinsky

Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) Concerto for 12 instruments (1952 revision) [5:45]; 3 Pieces, for solo clarinet [4:10]; 3 Pieces , for string quartet [6:27]; Symphonies of wind instruments (1947 revision) [8:33]; Renard for singers, cimbalom and small orchestra [15:01]; Agon ballet for 12 dancers and orchestra [21:52]
Guy Deplus (clarinet), Quatuor Parrenin, Jean Giraudeau, Louis Devos (tenors), Louis-Jacques Rondeleux (basses), Elemer Kiss (cimbalom), Solistes du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez, Orchestre du Domaine musical/ Pierre Boulez, South-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
rec. Paris 1958 (Agon) and 1962
CD2: New Vienna School I: from 1899 to 1912

Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) Verklärte Nacht for string sextet [31:12]
Anton von WEBERN (1883-1945) 6 Pieces for orchestra [10:17]
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) 3 Pieces for 12 instruments [2:02]; Pierrot Lunaire for voice and 5 instrumentalists, Op 21 [31:50]
Helga Pilarczyk (voice), Solistes du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez, Orchestre du Domaine musical/ Pierre Boulez, South-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
rec. Paris 1958 (Webern)-66
CD3: New Vienna School II: from 1906 to 1943

Alban BERG (1885-1935) Piano Sonata, Op 1 [8:27]; 3 Pieces for orchestra, Op 6 [5:02]
Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) Chamber Symphony No 1 for 15 instruments, Op 9 [17:15]
Anton von WEBERN (1883-1945) 2 Lieder for soprano and ensemble, Op 8 [2:00]; 4 Lieder for soprano and ensemble, Op 13 [2:02]; Cantata No 1 for soprano, mixed chorus and ensemble, Op 29 [8:28]; Cantata No 2 for soprano, mixed chorus and ensemble, Op 31 [12:30]
Yvonne Loriod (piano), Jeanne Hericard (soprano), Ilona Steingruber (soprano), Xavier Depraz (bass), Chorale Elisabeth Brasseur, Solistes du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez, Orchestre du Domaine musical/ Pierre Boulez, South-West German Radio Symphony Orchestra/Hans Rosbaud
rec. Paris 1956-61
CD4: New Vienna School III: Serialism

Arnold SCHOENBERG (1874-1951) Serenade for Baritone and 7 instruments, Op 24 [30:46]; Suite for 7 instruments, Op 29 [24:31]
Anton von WEBERN (1883-1945) Variations, for piano, Op27 [5:18]; Symphony, for 9 instruments, Op 21 [9:33]
Yvonne Loriod (piano), Solistes du Domaine musical, Orchestre du Domaine musical /Pierre Boulez
rec. Paris 1958 (Webern)-1966
ACCORD 476 8862 [4 CDs: 62:14 + 65:04 + 74:30 + 70:04]

Le Domaine musical: 1956-1967
Volume 1:
CD1: The Tenth Anniversary Concert

Karlheinz STOCKHAUSEN (b. 1928) Kontra-Punkte for 10 instruments, Op 1 [11:26]
Luciano BERIO (1925-2003) Serenata I for flute and 14 instruments [10:24]
Pierre BOULEZ (b. 1925) Le Marteau sans maître for alto and 5 players (1957 revision) [32:16]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Oiseaux exotiques for piano, winds and percussion [13:52]
Severino Gazzelloni (flute), Jeanne Deroubaix (alto), Yvonne Loriod (piano), Solistes du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez, Orchestre du Domaine musical/Rudolf Albert
rec. Paris 1955-66
CD2: French reference points

Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918) Syrinx for solo flute [3:34]
Edgard VARÈSE (1885-1965) Densité 21.5 for solo flute [5:50]; Hyperprism for small orchestra and percussion [4:40]; Octandre for 9 players [6:34]
Intégrales for small orchestra and percussion [11:10]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992) Cantéyodjayâ, for piano [12:01]; Sept Haïkai for piano, xylophone, marimba, 2 clarinets, trumpet and ensemble [18:43]
Severino Gazzelloni (flute), Jeanne Deroubaix (alto), Yvonne Loriod (piano), Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Orchestre du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez
rec. Paris 1958-64
CD3: Boulez the Composer

Pierre BOULEZ (b. 1925) Structures, Livre I for 2 pianos [14:21]; Sonatina, for flute and piano [11:44]; Piano Sonata No 2 [33:36]
Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky (pianos), Severino Gazzelloni (flute), David Tudor (piano), Yvonne Loriod (piano)
rec. Paris 1958-61
CD4: Companions along the way

Maurizio KAGEL (b. 1931) String Sextet [7:34]
Luigi NONO (1990) Incontri for 24 instruments [6:01]
Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926) Concerto per il Marigny for piano and orchestra [6:35]
Henri POUSSEUR (b. 1929) Madrigal III for clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano [12:01]; Mobile for 2 pianos [10:11]
Karlheinz STOCKHAUSEN (b. 1928) Zeitmasse for 5 wind instruments, Op 5 [13:38]; Klavierstück VI for piano, Op 4/11 [17:03]
Yvonne Loriod (piano), Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky (pianos), David Tudor (piano), Solistes du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez, Orchestre du Domaine musical/ Pierre Boulez
rec. Paris 1956-60
Bonus CD: A Story of Friendships

Interview with Boulez by Claude Samuel, September 2005
Pierre BOULEZ (b. 1925) Le Marteau sans maître for alto and 5 players (1955 version) [30:44]
Marie-Thérèse Cahn (alto), Solistes du Domaine musical/Pierre Boulez
rec. 1956 (World premiere)
ACCORD 476 9209 [4 CDs plus bonus CD: 66:54 + 62:32 + 59:46 + 73:15. Bonus CD: 79:42]



When Pierre Boulez started the Domaine Musical concerts at the Petit Marigny Théâtre in January 1954 he let off the equivalent of a small nuclear device in the moribund world of post-war Parisian music. A composer with several noteworthy first performances already, and acting as musical director for a theatre company run by Madeleine Renaud and Jean-Louis Barrault, the concerts were a logical extension of the major threads of his musical life. His experiences in Germany at the Donaueschingen Festivals and Darmstadt Summer Schools, his contacts with the radical music departments of the West German Radio stations and his immersion in the music of the New Viennese School of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern could scarcely have been better calculated to make him an apostle of the avant-garde in a Paris which had turned its back politically as well as culturally on the Austro-German tradition. For 12 years, his series of concerts – usually between four and six each year – scandalised critics and the establishment, proved revelatory to a generation of students and radical artists and established a bridgehead for contemporary music. Boulez’s trademark rigorously precise standards of execution, that would set the foundation for his international conducting career, on the one hand, and the likes of the Ensemble Intercontemporain and IRCAM, on the other.

Astonishingly for so marginal and fledgling an enterprise, many of the concerts were recorded by the Adès and Vega record companies and over the years some works have been occasionally available on disc. What Accord have done here, however, is to collect eight discs’ worth (eight-and-a-half, counting the bonus disc in Volume 1, of which more below) of recordings from right across the spectrum of the series’ existence, from their third season in 1956 to the last involving Boulez in 1966-7. The result is a treasure trove of musical wonders, from 20th century classics - as they seem now but of course were not then - like Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht and First Chamber Symphony, Berg’s Orchestra Pieces, Op 6, to the first tentative performance of Le Marteau sans maître, in its initial 1955 version - featured on that bonus disc in Volume 1, coupled with a long interview in French between Claude Samuel and Boulez, recorded last year; an English translation is provided in a supplementary booklet.

The layout of the discs is as logical as one would expect from an enterprise seeking to celebrate – or should that be commemorate? – Boulez’s pioneering work. Volume 1 is the contemporary section, featuring works mostly by Boulez himself and his colleagues and ‘companions along the way’, Stockhausen, Berio, Kagel, Nono, Pousseur and Henze: no mention here of their dramatic falling-out in 1958. There are also some seminal French influences: Debussy – represented by the tiny Syrinx beautifully played by Severino Gazzelloni – Varèse and Messiaen.

The second volume broadens the scale to the foreign giants: Stravinsky, with Boulez the only composer to have a whole disc devoted to him, and the New Vienna School, who receive three discs with Schoenberg having the lion’s share of the playing time (approximately two-thirds of the three discs), Webern the largest number of completed works (7).

The performers involved include many famous names. Gazzelloni also plays Berio’s spiky Serenata I (1957), Varèse’s Densité 21.5 and Boulez’s 1947 Sonatina as well as taking part in Le Marteau sans maître. Yvonne Loriod brings steely, vibrant virtuosity to her husband’s Oiseaux exotiques (1955-6) and Cantéyodjayâ (1949), sonatas by Berg and Boulez (No 2, 1948), the Webern Op 27 Variations and Henze’s Concerto per il Marigny (1956) while the Kontarsky brothers, Alfons and Aloys, provide probably only the second or third ever performance of Boulez’s Structures, Livre I (1951-2; probably only its) as well as Kagel’s Mobile (1958). Most of the performances are by the variable membership of the Orchestre du Domaine musical, predominantly conducted by Boulez himself – amazing to learn that he felt conducting was not innate in him, but something he had to work hard at – with a few directed by Rudolf Albert. The now celebrated Les Percussions de Strasbourg make an early appearance in a scintillating account of Messiaen’s Sept Haïkai (1962). The visit of the South-West German Radio Orchestra under their chief conductor Hans Rosbaud to Paris in 1958 and 1961 permitted Boulez to stage a rare full-orchestral concert – the economics of the Domaine’s circumstances meant that the vast majority of performances had to be solo instrumental or for chamber combinations – and so programme Stravinsky’s Agon (1953-7), Berg’s 3 Pieces, Op 6, and Webern’s 6 Pieces, Op 6.

The sound quality throughout is somewhat variable, as might be expected for recordings covering such a crucial period in recording techniques, but Accord’s remastering is very fine, the resulting sound is clear if at best two-dimensional. The earliest recordings – that of the very opening item on Disc 1 Volume 1, Stockhausen’s Op 1, Kontra-Punkte – dating from 1956 are flat and rather lifeless, but those from the 1960s show a gathering improvement in quality. The production values overall are very good, despite a few minor infelicities and inconsistencies in the booklet - such as a few confused composition dates. It is a shame no texts were included of the sung texts. The notes are in French and English and are fulsome. Each disc is contained in a card slip-case.

So how then does the music itself sound after four and five decades? There are several seminal works included, by composers whose work has now become the bedrock of the present-day avant garde.

Volume 1, CD 1: This is a recreation of the Domaine’s Tenth Anniversary Concert in 1964, however with the exception of Le Marteau sans maître - which has a much brighter and more precise aural image - the recordings appear to date from 1956. Stockhausen’s Kontra-Punkte (1952-3), labelled here as Opus 1, does sound as dry and antiquated as the recording, but that should not detract from its contemporary importance. The performance by the Domaine’s house band of soloists is committed and stripped of extraneous expression, which perhaps accounts for its desiccated atmosphere now. Berio’s Serenata I (1957) fares better, due largely to the vivid virtuosity of Gazzelloni, a musician who kept technical precision and expression in perfect harmony. An early work undoubtedly, Serenata I is worth getting to know. So, too, of course, is Le Marteau, the performance of which burns with all the intensity of a new-found modern classic. The first disc concludes with what appears to be at least the Parisian premiere of Messiaen’s Oiseaux exotiques, played (of course) by the composer’s wife, Yvonne Loriod. The sound again is rather flat but there’s no denying the hectic, edge-of-the-seat excitement of the playing, with Rudolf Albert directing the winds and percussion of the Domaine orchestra.

CD2: This bears the title "French references" and harks back to one of the original tenets of the series, to present new music in the context of three ‘plans’: a ‘reference’ plan of old masters such as Dufay, Gesualdo - neither of whose music was as well known as we now take for granted - and Bach; a ‘knowledge’ plan of music by more recent figures such as Debussy, Stravinsky, Varèse and the New Viennese School; and a ‘research’ plan – the new music itself. Disc 2 then concentrates on some of the French references in the widest sense of the term, with Debussy’s Syrinx and four works by Varèse set next to two recent pieces by Messiaen. This perhaps is the best-played disc overall in Volume 1, opening with Gazzelloni in top form in Syrinx and Densité 21.5 and proceeding with scintillating performances of Hyperprism (1922-3), the percussion-less nonet Octandre (1923) and Intégrales (1923-5). Yvonne Loriod’s provides a marvellous interpretation of Messiaen’s magical yet curiously overlooked piano scores, Cantéyodjayâ, and the disc concludes with a brilliantly delivered account of Sept Haïkai (1948), featuring the young Les Percussions de Strasbourg.

CD3: spotlights Boulez himself as composer. His works featured prominently but not exhaustively in the concerts; Stockhausen received more platform time. This disc, too, features top quality performances, though is more monochrome since only two instruments are used: piano (throughout) and flute, in Boulez’s unofficial opus 1, the Sonatina (1946). This telescoped single-span sonata-in-miniature is played by Gazzelloni accompanied by the American composer (a collaborator of John Cage) and pianist, David Tudor, and separates the Kontarsky brothers’ virtuosic guide through Book 1 of Structures (1951-2) and Loriod’s intense reading of the Second Sonata (1948), Boulez’s handbook on the destruction of traditional forms ancient and modern, here the sonata genre itself and Schoenbergian twelve-note practice. Whether it is a ‘portrait of the young 22-year-old’ composer is open to question, but it undoubtedly represents something of an artistic manifesto.

CD4: There is more splendid pianism on the final disc of Volume 1, entitled "Companions along the way", featuring music by some of Boulez’s like-minded colleagues from the times. David Tudor closes the disc with a coruscating performance of Stockhausen’s Klavierstück VI, Op 4/II (1956), in the extended version Tudor himself requested from the composer. If not quite a single-span sonata, it is closer to the conventional form than Boulez’s Second, albeit more what might be termed a fantasia. The same approach to form is evident also in Henri Pousseur’s Mobile for 2 pianos (1956-8), again winningly delivered by the Kontarskys, and the same composer’s Madrigal III for clarinet and an accompanying ensemble of piano trio and 2 percussionists (1962). Whereas the former piece is a freely evolving mosaic of ten sections played continuously, using serial procedures more strictly than in Madrigal III. In the same general area technically are Maurizio Kagel’s bright but brief String Sextet (1953-7) and Nono’s Incontri ("Encounters"), for 24 instruments composed in 1955 and performed the following year. Both works deal with the implications of the collision and co-existence of structures within the music, to rather different expressive results. Worlds away from either, though, is Henze’s tiny Concerto per il Marigny, for piano and seven instruments (1956), a seven-minute chamber concertino that plays tag with the serious business of serial organisation so dear to the Domaine’s organiser. No wonder they fell out two years later.

Bonus disc: As mentioned above, this covers Samuel’s interview with Boulez from September 2005 along with the 1956 premiere of Le Marteau. The tentative nature of the performance is overshadowed by the caution with which the work itself seems to grope its way forward; comparing it with the 1957 revision shows how much more confident Boulez had become in such a short time.

Volume 2 CD1: The first disc here is the only other devoted to a single composer, Stravinsky - although Schoenberg’s pieces included in this second set would fill more than one disc. The Russian hardly needed such advocacy, but he spanned both the ‘knowledge’ and ‘research’ plans in Boulez’s scheme. His tastes rejected the neo-classical scores so it was the works of the Swiss period, such as Renard (1917), and pieces such as the Symphonies of wind instruments (1920) which acted as reference works, if for no other reason than their revolutionary treatment of rhythm. By contrast, Agon – Stravinsky’s first serial - or, more accurately, part-serial – score was ‘new’ music as were the Messiaen pieces in Volume 1. Yet with the benefit of hindsight, one realises that Boulez was not truly able to avoid either overtly nationalist elements or the neo-classical in the Stravinsky works he selected. Both the Concertino for 12 instruments of 1920 – however much his re-arrangement of it in 1952 provided a spikier sound palette – and the two sets of Three Pieces - one for unaccompanied clarinet (1919), the other for string quartet (1914) – seem now quintessentially Russian, while in his Debussy memorial Symphonies of wind instruments (1920, given here in its 1947 revision), he revisited for the last time the textural landscape of The Rite of Spring. Renard, too, was based on a Russian folk-tale and points the way to what is probably Stravinsky’s most Russian score of all, Les Noces Villageoises, sadly beyond the resources of the Domaine to mount. Which just leaves Agon – composed at the same time Kagel was writing his Sextet – whose serial core is framed by another leave-taking, of the neo-classical sound world of Apollo and Orpheus. The performances are all splendid, not least that of Guy Deplus in the clarinet pieces, though the variable recorded images require a little adjustment when playing the disc through as a whole. If Renard is the brightest, that of Agon is the most recessed, reflecting the earlier date - 1958 as opposed to 1962 for the other works - and different location, the Salle Pleyel.

CD2: If the Stravinsky disc features consistently the most approachable music - for the general listener, for whom the Russian is no longer a radical figure - the opening item of Disc 2 brings back the world of over-ripe late nineteenth-century romanticism, in the string sextet Verklärte Nacht (1899), Schoenberg’s fervid chamber-tone-poem on a poem by Richard Dehmel. The work is given here in the revised version of 1917 and played with commendable ardour (in 1966) by the expanded Parennin Quartet, fully alive to its drama and beauty. The contrast with Webern’s 6 Pieces, Op 6 – as Boulez realised, the Austrian’s most "appealing" work full of "straightforward beauty" and "rarefaction of musical atmosphere" – is intriguing, Webern’s concision markedly different to the sextet’s fulsome richness, though just as expressive. Rosbaud’s well-prepared account of the 1928 scaled-down version, not (apparently) the original large orchestral set is well done and still makes a powerful impression, even if later conductors (including Karajan, Metzmacher and Boulez himself) have surpassed it. Primarily a series of delicate, precisely scored vignettes (none of which exceeds forty bars in length), the fulcrum of the set is the funeral march fourth, running to well over four minutes, and paced perfectly to its shattering, percussion-laden climax. Heavily influenced by Schoenberg, it is fascinating to then listen to the latter’s own set of 3 Pieces, composed the year after Webern’s set. Only discovered after Schoenberg’s death in 1951 by Josef Rufer, what is apparent is that the little triptych (which in toto lasts a mere 2 minutes) does not form so coherent a set as his pupil’s. The opening Rasch is particularly at odds with the succeeding pair, but they provide a fascinating glimpse into Schoenberg’s compositional methods (of klangfarbenmelodie especially), the year before his Harmonielehre was published. As Claude Samuel notes, the writing looks towards Pierrot Lunaire (1912), a splendid performance of which concludes the disc. Helga Pilarczyk is the vocal soloist, charting a neat course between speech and song and the instrumental quintet includes flautist Jacques Castagner and clarinettist Guy Deplus with Maria Bergmann at the piano.

CD3: Yvonne Loriod returns to the keyboard to open the third disc with Berg’s Sonata in B minor (1908), one of the most accomplished Opus 1s ever penned in its concision of form and power of expression. Berg originally considered adding further movements to it but Schoenberg rightly judged it complete in its own right. Given that this is repertoire not (now) normally associated with her, Loriod’s lyrical performance is well-thought-through and thoroughly convincing, though is ultimately overshadowed by Rosbaud’s thrilling – if occasionally slightly ragged – account of the 3 Pieces, Op 6 (1913-4). The epitome of the New Vienna School’s collection of abstractly titled sets, it almost overshadows Schoenberg’s First Chamber Symphony, Op 9, but the sheer quality of the Domaine players’ performance – and a higher quality recording – ensure that these seminal works do not eclipse each other. Written eight years before the Berg, the Chamber Symphony is somewhat out of the broadly chronological sequence in this volume and might have been better placed opening the disc, followed by the two Berg pieces and then the succeeding Webern songs and cantatas which conclude this disc. The 2 Songs, op 8 (composed in 1910 and rescored/revised in 1925) and 4 Songs, Op 13 (written at various times between 1914 and 1918 but only completed in score in 1922) are both exquisitely sung by Jeanne Hericard, though after the heavyweight music-making preceding them the change of pace, texture and style is jarring. Nonetheless, Webern’s pointillist scoring opens the way into his rarefied sound-world. It is a shame the sound quality is so flat for these nicely paced performances. The sound quality is a factor also in the two late cantatas, relatively expansive creations at 8 and 12 minutes plus respectively. I must confess their virtues have eluded me in the past more than most Webern scores and the slightly awkward recorded balance here has not helped me find a way in; but that is more my problem than that of these committed renditions.

CD4: The final disc concentrates on four of the most important works from the New Vienna School, two apiece by Schoenberg and Webern. At first glance, the succession of Schoenberg’s ground-breaking Serenade, Op 24, and Suite for seven instruments, Op 29, followed by Webern’s piano Variations and solitary Symphony might seem forbidding. These are works still probably more talked and written about than actually listened to and their critical standing is almost reverential. The Serenade (1920-3) is the work in which – not unlike Stravinsky in Agon three decades later – one can hear Schoenberg finally let dodecaphony take hold at the work’s heart then ebb away again. In the Suite (1925-6), the twelve-note method took hold, the result being a more rigorous and serious four-movement work whose expressive world is much harder to penetrate.

Yet these are musical works, designed to be heard not studied, so it may seem strange that the Serenade, Suite and Symphony barely muster a dozen currently available recordings between them, at time of writing (September 2006; the Variations have no less than 17, with 3 more of the orchestral arrangement). In the case of the Serenade, this may be due in part to its curious scoring: clarinet and bass clarinet, mandolin, guitar and string trio with a baritone solo in the fourth of its seven movements. At around half-an-hour in length it is difficult to programme, but its lightness of touch and instrumental polish give it greater appeal than the Suite – for another unconventional ensemble of piano, soprano clarinet in E flat, clarinet, bass clarinet and string trio. The performances are also highly polished, that of the Serenade in 1962 being particularly fine and in the best sound; the Suite dating from three years before, sounds just a touch cramped. They are succeeded by an extraordinary performance of Webern’s Variations by Yvonne Loriod – even further from perceived notions of her normal repertoire than in the Berg – each section beautifully delineated. The concluding account of the Symphony, Op 21 (1927-8), is the earliest on the disc, from 1958. Requiring only nine performers (plus conductor) if a string quartet was used rather than an orchestral body, this was well within the Domaine’s resources and Boulez and his Domaine ‘orchestra’ relished the challenge. What Parisian audiences thought of it in 1956 can only be guessed at; fifty years on its musical quality still resonates through contemporary music.

Guy Rickards


 



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