Visiting Orchestras

Bamberger Symphoniker / Jonathan Nott

Pierre Boulez & Stéphane Mallarmé

Past Dates

Even in its external dimensions, Pli selon pli is a monumental work. It has the scale of an oratorio, one that makes do with a single human voice. It unfolds in five stages like a classical drama, but has no need of scenery, which it harbours within itself. Pli selon pli, “fold by fold,” this music (to which the voice belongs as well, both its sonorities and its words) reveals a portrait of an individual who lived in and through language, and is hence also a portrait of language itself and of its emergence within music. After Stéphane Mallarmé, we find “virtually no further formal development in poetry” (Boulez). The title is drawn from a sonnet which Boulez never set to music. Pli selon pli, “…fold by fold, the ancient stones rise…” – significant as well are the words Boulez omitted from the title. They seem to allude to the “metallic delicacy” of many sonorities and sonic tableaux which shape this composition over extended intervals. It refers as well to the lucidity of the lines, to the structural and formal clarity toward which poet and composer alike aspired.

In contrast to much of the agitation characterizing post-war musical modernism, Pli selon pli consistently displays an extraordinary tranquillity. Like certain central passages which develop from ideas related to bells and to percussion sonorities, the work’s tempo seems to derive from remote, non-European cultures. Inhabiting Pierre Boulez’s music as well, apparently, is a kind of distant land of yearning.

Concert Programme

Richard Wagner [1813–1883]
Siegfried Idyll
for orchestra [1870]

Pierre Boulez [born 1925]
Pli selon pli
Portrait de Mallarmé
based on poems by Stéphane Mallarmé
for soprano and orchestra [1957/89]

I Don [du poème]
«Je t’apporte l’enfant d’une nuit d’Idumée!»
II Improvisation I sur Mallarmé
«Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui»
III Improvisation II sur Mallarmé
«Une dentelle s’abolit»
IV Improvisation III sur Mallarmé
«A la nue accablante tu»
V Tombeau
«Un peu profond ruisseau calomnié la mort»