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20/21 Boulez Conducts Boulez - Le Marteau Sans Maître, Etc


Release Date: 03/08/2005 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000404302   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Pierre Boulez
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 9 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This release is part of Deutsche Grammophon’s celebration of Pierre Boulez’s 80th birthday that includes a new recording of his piano sonatas as well as the continuation of his Mahler cycle for the label. This is at least the fifth recording led by the composer of his Le marteau sans maître (The Hammer Unmastered—the title is taken from the collection of poetry by René Char that provided the three sung texts). Unlike the slightly later Pli selon pli, which has been revised numerous times, Le marteau sans maître was revised shortly after the 1955 premiere and that version, from 1958, has apparently been considered definitive by the composer. Scored for contralto, alto flute, viola, guitar, and three percussionists, the Read more work is structured as three interwoven cycles, each based around one of the three sung texts—this is an early example of Boulez’s use of mirrors and doubles to structure a multimovement work. It is indicative of the formidable rhythmic complexity that, despite requiring only seven musicians, the work is never performed without a conductor. It remains one of the tougher nuts in the Boulez catalog to really come to terms with. The percussive sonorities are extremely beautiful and the composer generates a surprising amount of rhythmic propulsion in music that is largely without any sense of a regular beat. However, the nearly constant emphasis on short, bell-like sounds (only the flute and the voice really provide much in the way of sustained music) and the middle register orientation of the pitch material produce a certain sameness unless one is paying extremely close attention, something the music rewards handsomely. Boulez’s current thoughts, aided by the astonishingly lovely singing of Hilary Summers (more generally known for her wonderful work with Robert King in his remarkable Vivaldi series on Hyperion) and the near perfection of his own Ensemble Intercontemporain, are very beautiful. He has been given some of Deutsche Grammophon’s very best sound. I think this is the only recording by the composer currently in print, and the presence of the two other chamber pieces makes this an obligatory purchase for fans of the composer.

The two pieces entitled Dérive have very different sources. The first, from 1984, takes its pitch material from Paul Sacher’s last name, also used in the Sacher 70th birthday tribute, Messagesquisse (1976–77), scored for seven cellos. Dérive 1 is scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, vibraphone, and piano. It is a short (six minutes) slow movement of great delicacy. Dérive 2 (1988/2002) is for 11 instruments, roughly four times as long, and is based on a computer analysis of the multiple layering of events in the music of Conlon Nancarrow and Grygory Ligeti. It is a fast, furious exploration of multiple layers of activity that is nothing short of exhilarating.

The performances have to be considered as close to definitive as these things get and are abetted by resplendent recorded sound. A worthy addition to an important series.

John Story, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

1.
Le marteau sans maître by Pierre Boulez
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain
Written: 1953-5, rev 1957 
Date of Recording: 09/2002 
Venue:  IRCAM-Studio/ESPRO, Paris 
Length: 38 Minutes 32 Secs. 
2.
Dérive 2 by Pierre Boulez
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 09/2002 
Venue:  IRCAM-Studio/ESPRO, Paris 
Length: 24 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Notes: Composition written: 1988 - 2002.
Composition revised: 2002. 
3.
Dérive 1 by Pierre Boulez
Conductor:  Pierre Boulez
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble InterContemporain
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1984 
Date of Recording: 09/2002 
Venue:  IRCAM-Studio/ESPRO, Paris 
Length: 5 Minutes 47 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Le Marteau sans Maître: Avant "l'Artisanat furieux"
Le Marteau sans Maître: Commentaire I de "Bourreaux de solitude"
Le Marteau sans Maître: "L'Artisanat furieux"
Le Marteau sans Maître: Commentaire II de "Bourreaux de solitude"
Le Marteau sans Maître: "Bel édifice et les pressentiments" version première
Le Marteau sans Maître: "Bourreaux de solitude"
Le Marteau sans Maître: Après "L'Artisanat furieux"
Le Marteau sans Maître: Commentaire III de "Bourreaux de solitude"
Le Marteau sans Maître: "Bel édifice et les pressentiments", double
Dérive 1
Dérive 2

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