Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez shared an artistic friendship based on great mutual respect. Boulez was one of the exponents of new music that Barenboim favoured in his programming. The central hall of the Barenboim-Said Academy, which was created at the conductor’s instigation in the Staatsoper’s former scenery store, bears the composer’s name as does the ensemble – with a flexible cast – that performs its concerts there. Artists from the Staatskapelle, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and faculty members from the Academy play there together in programmes that allow the Classical and Romantic repertoire, music from the classic modernist period of the 20th century and contemporary compositions to resonate with each other and the audience.
Sur Incises is one example of the open and in principle open-ended nature of Boulez’ creative process and of his exceptionally nuanced sense of sound. Here the composer reapplied his scrutiny to his virtuoso piano piece Incises, expanding it to many times its original length and splitting the sound of the piano into three groups of three: harps reinforced the impulsive and intoxicating aspects of the stringed instrument while percussion emphasised the resonant qualities of the pianos. In Schumann’s quintet the sound of the piano provides impulses in both a real and a structural sense. Its relationship to the strings describes its own story in sound. This articulates highly personal but also far-reaching symphonic ideas through strong contrasts. The overwhelming compositional flair of the finale offers both players and listeners a labyrinth of pleasure.