Another prize for Pierre Boulez (what’s the point?)

The holy warrior of modernism, seriously ill, was today awarded in absentia the Bach Prize of the city of Hamburg. It’s worth 10,000 Euros. He needs it like we need two breakfasts.

boulez lucerne

 

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  • Chances are that Boulez will gives it to good causes. I think that Lucerne venture he’s president of has scholarship funds.

    Inidentally, have there been any sightings of PB in public recently ? I wonder if he’ll attend the London performances of his music next month. He’s lived ten years longer than Stockhausen did

  • Some prizes are given to great people to give prestige to the person.

    Some prizes are given to great people to give prestige to the prize.

  • The bitterness expressed here, including that of the blog-keeper, is surprising, hurtful, considering the recipiet’s age, health, and accomplishments

  • I don’t know the financial situation of Pierre Boulez, but as you say, he’s very old and in quite poor health. He’s been an extremely important figure in music during all of my life so I guess I can understand a rush to give him these recognitions so he can appreciate them while he’s still with us.

  • Sadly, he was not even able to attend the concerts in his honour last month in Baden-Baden, where he lives – a live stream was set up so that he could watch and listen to the performances from his home. I very much doubt he will make it to London.

  • In my opinion, everything about this man – his music, his conducting, his writing – has been over-praised. His music is old hat. His conducting cold. His repertory limited. And the times changed without him.

    • He has conducted Mozart, Berlioz, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, Szymanowski, Janacek, Ravel, Debussy, Roussel, Stravinsky, Bartok, Berg, Schoenberg, Webern, Varèse, Carter, Messiaen, Xenakis, Zappa…
      Yup, very limited indeed.

      Shall we now discuss Christian Thielemann’s repertory? How about Riccardo Muti’s?

      As for his music being overpraised, it is of course a matter of taste. As someone who despises 95% of Italian operas, I would gladly trade most of Verdi’s, all of Puccini as well as Bellini’s and Donizetti’s operas for Répons… As I said: matter of taste.

      • Being someone who loves Boulez (the composer and the conductor) as well as most of Italian opera (yeah, that works!) – I’m eager to know which Verdi works are acceptable for your taste? Otello? Falstaff? Boccanegra? I suppose Aida won’t make it on the list. 😀

        By the way: What about Rossini? You didn’t mention him.

      • B’s repertory is restricted in the sense of the number of works he can conduct well. Since he never seems to have had any incling of the rich emotional palette of the Western orchestral repertory, he took on any piece, oblivious of his own restrictions. He has extensively explained time and again that the music is in the score, i.e. it is in the notes and that they have to be carefully and precisely played, and that clarity is a prerequisite of a good performance of any music. Which is plain wrong: there is music which requires such acoustical clarity, and music which has more than one layer and also needs some ‘brushwork’ around the lines, what Richard Strauss called ‘al fresco’ textures. In other words: the music is NOT in, but behind the notes and that requires some intuitive, musical understanding, which comes from the layers that also produce the thing which PB always found very puzzling: ‘expression’. His approach to music is materialistic, just like his own work, and although his technical abilities are not contested, their purpose leaves much to be wished for.

      • “I’m eager to know which Verdi works are acceptable for your taste? Otello? Falstaff? Boccanegra? I suppose Aida won’t make it on the list. :-D”

        Exactly! You guessed right. I even think that Falstaff is one of the greatest operas ever written: great libretto, fabulous music! The Requiem is also fun. But 20 minutes of Traviata (and 10 of Madama Butterfly) and I’m ready to confess all my sins! And even invent new ones! Aida isn’t really my cup of tea either…

        “By the way: What about Rossini? You didn’t mention him.”

        That’s right: I think I find him acceptable because his music (actually, the 4 of 5 operas I know…) is rather pleasant, not sentimental and not bombastic. It’s kinda fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

        But give me Rameau, Mozart, Wagner… Yes, I know: Wagner can be bombastic and does take himself way too seriously… What can I say… ; )

        • Roughly same here, though, by a combination of sentimentalism, admiration for cliché-heroism and “but the music is great”, I can’t help loving Traviata, Trovatore, Rigoletto and Don Carlo. Puccini might well be doomed if it wasn’t for Tosca, no need for Donizetti either, but please spare Bellini! As for Rossini, I’m still waiting for the movie version of Semiramide by the producers of Ben-Hur. Would be great fun! (By the way: Meyerbeer deserves far more attention than he gets.)

          Anyway, de gustibus… 😉

      • Jaypee wrote:

        Boulez has conducted Mozart, Berlioz, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss, Szymanowski, Janacek, Ravel, Debussy, Roussel, Stravinsky, Bartok, Berg, Schoenberg, Webern, Varèse, Carter, Messiaen, Xenakis, Zappa.

        ——

        Don’t forget Rameau.

        Boulez also conducted “Hippolyte et Aricie” in 1965.

        • Yes, Boulez will be known for his Rameau, Beethoven, Brahms. hehehehehe. He just conducts what’s in the score. Mahler said: “It only begins with the notes.” Something the Boulez would be incapable of understanding.

  • Boulez…………the only conductor who could make Mahler and Janacek sound dull, and that is some feat! But no doubt his compositions will be played by thousands of orchestras worldwide (I think not!).

  • === everything about this man – his music, his conducting, his writing –
    === has been over-praised.

    I think you have a point about his writings. Those thundering proclamations can be tedious to read and are terribly dated. In print he always behaved like the Emperor of France.

    But have you not heard Pli selon Pli, Repons, Eclats-Multiples or listened to him conducting Debussy ?

    • It’s a long time since I listened to Repons, but it is fairly good. Pli selon pli, however, is as fresh as a bag of old beans you from the back of the freezer when you unfreeze it.

    • PB’s Plink selon Plonk has a fascinating beginning of a Ravellian couple of seconds, after which the piece falls into an abyss of boredom and pretentious caterwauling accompanied by the usual kitchen sink rumblings. Eclat is… but let me stop. PB’s conducting Debussy is revealing: instead of the required subtleties of the scores, he thinks everything should be fixed very clearly in acoustical terms, thereby destroying Debussy’s subtle brushwork and making the piece sound stiff and stilted. Compare, for instance, his recording of Jeux with the superb one by Serge Baudo and the Tschech phil (full of schwung). PB thinks that Debussy was a forerunner of his own materialistic approach: sound as pure sound, not understanding that with Debussy the sound was always in the service of musical, expressive aims.

  • Just wondering, sir: since George Szell would probably have agreed with PB re: “pre-requisite, how do you regard HIS career, especially his years with the Cleveland Orchestra. Ditto: Otto Klemperer who was always very fussy about balances, note-values, correct placement of crescendi et.al.

    • All this is merely the basis of orchestral performance. On this basis, the musical edifice has to be raised. PB stops where conductors of real stature begin.

  • Szell didn’t always respect the score: he cut over 100 bars from the finale of Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra” because he didn’t like them.

    • Bizar! Probably because he was Hungarian and thought he could have written the music by himself if Bartok had not.

      Szell has recorded an incredibly beautiful and stylisch Mozart 40 & 41 with the Cleveland which demonstrates all the sensitivity of 18C style, without needing the HIP conformism (Historically Informed Performance).

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