Monday, January 25, 2010

Pierre, Part I

Just back from a lovely, spur-of-the-moment weekend in Chicago to hear Pierre Boulez and the CSO rock their way through The Firebird, a Boulez piece Livre pour cordes, and Bartok's Concerto for Two Pianos and Percussion. The Boulez, possibly the first I've heard live, was very engaging, well textured, little fragmentary ideas sort of eliding and coalescing into more solid bits. The Bartok is a very cool piece, it's not really improved by being a concerto over the sonata, but if that's what it takes to get it played, so be it. Very exacting, lively, and I love the last movement with its jaunty little melodies, and then the sweetest ending imaginable, a little throwaway cadence and the drums fading perfectly into nothingness. Finally, the Firebird gets me everytime in the final movement, but what really came out so well in this performance was the clarity of texture, especially in the phenomenal wind playing. There's such energy and vivacity to the score, but then moments of simplicity really come across as almost naive. My favorite moment may be the games of the princesses- everything bubbles, then the music is cut short, a bit savagely here, then out of this limbo comes that gorgeous oboe solo, the tension just evaporates as quickly as it set in. Boulez isn't one for sentimentality, everything happens in tempo, but that actually works to great effect here- it's what is played rather than how it's played that communicates everything, or at least a delicate balance between the two.

Also on the new music front, I went to the composer's forum. SOme very nice stuff, including a Michael Nymany quartet that got a lot of richness out of the ensemble, and a marvelous piano/violin duo. I didn't think much of the first few excerpts, but the final two numbers were amazing. The penultimate featured string glissandos and these wisps of arpeggios fragilely arranged, and the final one a static D major chord over which lines spun out in all directions. Gorgeous.

Bedtime approaches, but soon I'll get around to year in review things, as well as Pierre Parts II and III (CSO is doing Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle here with Ravel and Dalbavie, and then Boulez is giving a talk).


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