Visiting Ensembles

Ensemble intercontemporain / François-Xavier Roth

Composing – at least for Pierre Boulez – has always meant exploration, and concentrated hearing realizes itself consistently as the striving for and the organization of surprises. Assuming a key role within the polarity formed by composer and listener quite often is the mediator figure of the interpreter. His moment arrives when a work makes its first entrance on the stage of history; he is the agent of its sustained public impact. Boulez’s Second Sonata and his Le Marteau sans maître are now more than 50 and 60 years old respectively – as old as Brahms’ Fourth Symphony when the Second Sonata was composed. The polemics of that period have meanwhile to play a role in the perception and appraisal of these works. Today, interpretive freedom may accentuate their inner multiplicity in contrasting ways, foregrounding idiosyncrasies that remained latent when they were premiered, whether gestural qualities that are simultaneously invoked and renounced by the tradition from which they sprang, or quasi-cadential effects which are singled out, abjured, or glossed over, even becoming points of departure for fresh approaches.

Music is always tied to dramaturgy, is always also theatre (Berio) and a close relative of language. In both works, percussive fields allow overarching structures to emerge, lines, quivering sonic spaces, material densities whose forces of attraction and repulsion extend across broad expanses of space and time. At times, these resemble the effects which fascinated Ligeti in the Amadinda music of Central Africa. Although preoccupied with this branch of knowledge, Boulez was no ethnomusicologist. But like many of his contemporaries, he articulated the drive to surpass the expressive and conceptual boundaries of European music. In his Le Marteau sans maître, he himself detected a “convergence with the sound ideals of the far east.” At times, the hammer lost by the “master” of Char’s poem reverberates in visual and aural gaps in a way which astonish even the composer himself – affects he discovers just like one of his own listeners.

Concert Programme

Pierre Boulez [geb. 1925]
Deuxième Sonate
for piano [1946/48]

Pierre Boulez
Le Marteau sans maître
for and six instruments [1953/55; rev. 57]
based on poems by René Char

1. Avant l’Artisanat furieux. Rapide – 2. Commentaire I: de Bourreaux de solitude. Lent
3. L’Artisanat furieux. Modéré sans rigueur – 4. Commentaire II: de Bourreaux de solitude. Rapide
5. Bel édifice et les pressentiments / version première – 6. Bourreaux de solitude. Assez lent
7. Après l’Artisanat furieux. Rapide – 8. Commentaire III: de Bourreaux de solitude. Assez lent
9. Bel édifice et les pressentiments / double. Tempo libre de récit.