is the second volume in the series of recordings made of
Domaine musical concerts in Paris from 1953 to 1967 (for
background, see review
of Volume 1). While the first
volume gave a general perspective on the scope of music promoted
by the Domaine, this volume focuses in more detail on Stravinsky
and the Second Viennese School. Stravinsky in particular
was no stranger to French audiences. Mainstream audiences
in France may have been conservative by Boulez’s standards
and in his time, but Paris had long been receptive to musical
innovation, as Stravinsky knew from experience. Many of the
Domaine audience and musicians would have known Stravinsky’s
work in performance, so the Domaine was effectively building
on a sound foundation.
audiences and musicians were sophisticated and knowledgeable,
and could respond to new ideas as a result. Ignorance fuels
bigotry: learning disperses it. It’s this combination of
a knowledgeable audience and good musicianship which makes
this series so rewarding. The players are doing what they
wanted to do, which they couldn’t in their normal orchestras.
Furthermore, they knew full well that those who were listening
were receptive and non-judgmental. Some of the venues used
seated less than three hundred people, there was very direct,
intimate communication between all present. The sense of
rapport between performers and audience is al most palpable.
This alone makes these recordings worthwhile. It’s impossible
for anyone listening, even casually, to miss the spontaneity
of these performances.
for 12 instruments (here in the “new” 1952 revision)
is a stunning example of just how good they could be. The
trumpets and trombones are very punchy, and the piece is
animated with a real sense of discovery. This is virtuoso
playing indeed. Anyone hearing the clarinet solo pieces
cannot fail to be impressed by Guy Deplus’s confident poise.
He’s clearly enjoying himself, and knows his audience is,
too. The Symphony for Wind Instruments is a triumph.
This, too, is the revised 1947 version, which is now better
known than the original, but in Domaine times was new.
Each soloist is a virtuoso, yet they work together in perfect
ensemble. The opening fanfare is spine-tinglingly good,
as are the contrasts between large brass and woodwinds.
Stravinsky had the measure of French idiom, too. Renard here
is performed with panache, the singing spirited and stylish.
It’s definitely enhanced by the rapport between musicians
the first years of the Domaine, Boulez did everything, writing
programme notes, commissioning programme art and even, personally,
distributing wage packets to the musicians. Yet he was by
no means the only conductor. In the October 1957 Domaine
concert, Hans Rosbaud conducted the European première of
Stravinsky’s new ballet Agon, in the prestigious Salon
Pleyel. Rosbaud knew Boulez’s work. His compositions were
featured at Donaueschingen as early as 1950. Indeed, when Poésie
pour pouvoir was performed, Rosbaud conducted the primary
part while Boulez conducted the secondary. When Rosbaud was
indisposed, Boulez substituted for him, once receiving no
less than twenty curtain calls. It must have been some performance!
would go on to make far superior recordings of Verklärte
Nacht and Pierrot Lunaire, but these early versions
are of interest because they show what they developed from.
For example, in Pierrot Lunaire, Helga Pilarcyzk is
very strong and direct, very different from the superlative
version with Christine Schäfer. Boulez develops a more lucid,
luminous style as he goes deeper into the soul of the music.
Similarly, the versions of Webern songs here, with Jeanne
Héricard, are interesting though not in the league of Boulez’s
later Webern which is far more distinctive. Good conductors
don’t spring, like Venus, fully formed and knowing everything.
They listen, learn and find something new, and here we can
elsewhere in this series, there’s excellent playing from
Yvonne Loriod. Here she essays Berg’s Sonata in C,
Webern’s Variationen für Klavier and leads the ensemble
in Schoenberg’s Suite for Seven instruments. Loriod
has unfortunately been, for me, first and foremost, connected
to Messiaen, so it was good hearing her with the Domaine,
where she was a guiding spirit.
booklets for this series are not at all informative, or even
particularly helpful. Perhaps they assume that anyone listening
will have a grasp of late 20th century music-making,
but of course this isn’t the case. If I’ve written at some
length it’s because it’s worth pointing out why the series
is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. Firstly, it is
a time-capsule of an exciting period in new music. Then,
it’s a guide to following the development of interpretation.
It’s wonderful example of interaction between audiences and
musicians. And above all, there are some very fine performances