Pierre BOULEZ (b.1925)
Mémoriale for solo flute and eight instruments (cello, horn, viola, three violins) (1985) [5.39];
Dérive 1 for cello, clarinet, flute, piano, vibraphone, violin (1984) [6.26];
Dérive 2 for bassoon, cello, clarinet, English horn, harp, horn, marimba, piano, vibraphone, viola, violin (1988, rev. 2001/2006) [50.40]
Fabrice Jünger (flute)
Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain (Guillaume Lafeuille (cello); Didier Muhleisen, Thierry Gaillard (horn); Brice Duval, Patrick Oriol, Gaël Rassaert, Mathieu Roussel, Nicolas Miribel (violin); Hervé Cligniez (clarinet); Roland Meillier (piano); Claudio Bettinelli (vibraphone); Laurent Apruzzese (bassoon); François Salès (English horn); Emmanuelle Jolly (harp); Roméo Monteiro (marimba))/Daniel Kawka
rec. Salle Guy Porieux, Montbrison, France, June 2011
NAÏVE MO 782183 [63.10]
It seems that you either love him or hate him; not, that is, Boulez the musician and conductor but Boulez the composer. Much of that goes back to the days when he condemned opera houses to hell-fire and the symphony to the department of hopeless causes. Now, at 87, he is the grand old statesman of modern music and needs to be taken very seriously.
If you listen with an open mind to his work you encounter a sensitive and meticulous ear for sonority and line which has, all too often, been overlooked. For instance, right from the start of Mémorial the flute winds itself around a dancing line often ending with a trill the pitch of which is then captured and elongated by one of the two horns. This is a chamber work for alto flute, two horns, three violins, two violas and cello. It is fleeting, scintillating and crepuscular and is a memorial to a young flautist Lawrence Beauregard who died in 1985 aged 31. He had been involved just previously with IRCAM in Paris, founded by Boulez and with Boulez’s ‘Explosante-fixe’ which itself was a memorial to Stravinsky. The structure of the work was based on Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, itself in memory of Debussy. It is in several sections configured in a way sometimes called ‘chain-form’. Boulez’s Mémoriale flows continuously with no sense of break or change of texture.
Perhaps it’s just a chip from the workshop, and you may say the same about Dérives 1 written the year before. The scoring is similar to that of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire that is flute, clarinet, piano, violin and cello but with the magical inclusion of a vibraphone. The title derives from several sources: first, one element is sparked into life (derived from) a previous fragment, secondly from a series of six notes which use the name of Paul Sacher the celebrated conductor and patron of music and thirdly some of the material comes from a recently completed work of great importance in Boulez’s output: ‘Répons’. Having said all that, just enjoy the wash and gorgeous sounds, the trills and swirls that build to the central climax, drop away and build again creating an image of quivering fantasy.
Dérives 2, scored for a small orchestra of eleven players, began as an 80th birthday present for Elliott Carter, but as is typical of Boulez the work constantly evolved in versions up to 2001, and finally in 2006 when, at last, Carter could hear his present. The derivations are fragments of pieces by Ligeti and Carter. Robert Piencikowski in his wordy but generally useful liner-notes, fails to tell us which, but Boulez uses these ideas isorythmically as a 14th Century composer might, even employing hoquets. It is quite extraordinary how Boulez spins his ideas out into a fifty minute duration and just as remarkable is the evident concentration brilliantly brought to bear. It is a coruscating score with moments of greater stillness. A more static sound - as for example at about eleven minutes in – provides what are called in the booklet “successive interruptions”. Gradually they become a more prominent aspect of the entire work. Sometimes a chord is sustained with isolated pockets of activity above it, before moving on again. There are occasional passages when a soloist is highlighted surrounded by a halo of polyphony. The clarinet, oboe and bassoon are especially noticeable in this connection. The ensemble is grouped as two trios - one of woodwind and one of strings, two duos - one of percussion and one including the harp and piano. They form an axis around the solo horn which starts the work on A sharp. The final pages build dramatically and excitingly towards the concluding reiteration of a G sharp. This is repeated aggressively rather as Sibelius did at the end of the Fifth Symphony. The whole work, apart from these occasional still moments, is breathless and totally energising. I have in my listening life, as I am sure have many of you, spent fifty minutes in the presence of music which should not have lasted half that length. With this work I was never uninterested or bored. My attention was maintained and I was also emotionally engaged in its sound-world.
As well the essay mentioned above there are performer photographs. Daniel Kawka writes a few words about his association with Boulez. He has a very wide repertoire but with particular emphasis on French music. He must rank as one of the top conductors and indeed musicians of our time, although as yet, not so well known in the UK as he is on the Continent.
The performances on this CD are beyond reproach. The recording is clear and detailed. This is great music but undoubtedly challenging. It is, however, important and of lasting value.
This is great music but undoubtedly challenging. Important and of lasting value.