…Whatever reservations one might harbor about this or that individual performance, it is unlikely that this set as a whole will be surpassed in the near future. It belongs in every serious music library, private or public.
Swiss pianist Ingrid Karlen makes her ECM debut with Variations, of which the program is as provocative as the title is vague. Beyond variations in the traditional sense, these are, rather, mise-en-abymes of abstractions. Or so they might at first aural glance seem, for within these sometimes troubling clusters of false starts breathes a unity at once organic and contrived. Anton Webern’s Variations for Piano, op. 27 (1935/36) is the primary example, for the only variations they seem to engender stem from that which cannot be notated. These pieces behave as might a solo violin sonata, jumping fluidly and bow-like through their ephemeral 12-tone links. They are the anti-motif, a stretch of childhood unable to be sifted.
It is almost exactly a quarter of a century since Pierre Boulez recorded his complete Webern survey. This new collection, apart from being useful for anyone who doesn't want to buy three whole CDs of Webern, offers an interesting insight into how Boulez's way with a composer probably more central to him than any other has changed. For a start he gives him a little more time: most of the pieces here are slightly but significantly slower than they were in 1970. This allows lines to be more subtly moulded, phrases to acquire a touch more poise. This is not to say that Boulez has softened and now phrases Webern as though he were Chopin, but grace and even wit (the second movement of the Quartet) are now noticeable alongside his customary precision. The Ensemble InterContemporain have been playing these pieces constantly since they were first founded, and it shows in the absolute assurance of their performances.
Pierre Boulez (b. 1925), French composer, conductor, and music theorist, is regarded as a leading composer of the post-Webern serialist movement who also embraced elements of aleatory and electronics. As a child Boulez demonstrated a formidable aptitude in mathematics, but left for Paris in 1942 to enroll in the Paris Conservatoire. His studies there often ran into difficulties, as he was rapidly developing revolutionary – "Praise be to amnesia" – attitudes towards all things traditional. But two decisive influences during those years helped to shape his musical personality. The first was Messiaen's famous analysis course, the other was René Leibowitz, who introduced him to serial music, where Boulez found "a harmonic and contrapuntal ……..From Allmusic
Peter Stein staged the work for Welsh National Opera in 1992 and won universal praise, as did Pierre Boulez for his conducting. Within austere, wholly appropriate sets, beautifully lit by Jean Kalman, Stein catches the very essence of this singular and elusive piece. Each of the 15 scenes is given its own distinctive décor in which the action is played out on several levels – high for the tower scenes, low for the eerie, subterranean grottoes, for instance. A masterstroke is the subtle evolution from one scene to another in view of the audience, offering a visual counterpoint to the interludes. Stein sees that Debussy's instructions are scrupulously observed. In fact, as a whole, this is an object-lesson in modern staging. Stein and his collaborators reflect the ebb and flow of crude realism and fragile dream-life that permeate the score, which Boulez has identified as lying at its heart. Director and conductor worked closely with each other over a six-week rehearsal period, something unlikely to occur today, so Boulez's interpretation is in complete accord with the staging, his musical direction at once direct and luminous, timbres finely balanced one with the other.
Recorder virtuoso Erik Bosgraaf (b. 1980) was personally granted permission to arrange for recorder Boulez' (1925-2016) Dialogue de l'ombre double, originally for clarinet and electronics. ...The result is a dynamic interplay between Bosgraaf's recorder and the fascinating electronic timbres and colours. The second work on this release is a musical dialogue between Bosgraaf and electronic wizard Jorrit Tamminga (b. 1973), creating unheard-of sounds of the recorder interwoven in electronic sound tapestries.
Arnold Schoenberg is unquestionably one of the pivotal composers of the 20th century. By opening new aesthetic horizons, he played a crucial role in the development of contemporary classical music. This Sony Classical CD includes 1978 recordings of two works from Schoenberg's expressionist period: Erwartung (1909) and Pierrot Lunaire (1912). It also features an excerpt from the Gurre-Lieder: “Der Lied Der Waldtaube”.
Jean-Pierre Rampal is often considered the greatest flutist of the modern era. In addition to his exceptional talent, he raised the flute to unprecedented solo status, popularizing the flute literature, the flute recital and flute recordings. The rediscovery of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic repertoire for the flute is one of his outstanding achievements, as well as his numerous collaborations with composers; over 100 works have been written for and premiered by him. He recorded for Erato from the mid-1950s, with many discs receiving awards internationally.