|Pierre Boulez, |
by Carlo Bavagnoli
Pierre Boulez was perhaps the towering figure in avant-garde Western classical music in the second half of the 20th century. He became one of the leading composers and judgmental exponents of new music, championing certain composers, especially those of his generation, as well as key figures in the French tradition, and the leader early 20th century modernists. He pursued a parallel career as a conductor, beginning in the 1950s, and perhaps most famously, led the New York Philharmonic from 1970-1975, a tenure that still provokes mixed reviews, though his focus on contemporary composers and the 20th century repertoire was undeniable, and remains unmatched by the Philharmonic even today, in 2016. His conducting style, without a baton and noted for its precision and clarity, brought the modernist composers Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Gustav Mahler, Bela Bartók, Maurice Ravel, and Edgard Varèse in particular to life. His own work showed their influences while moving in its own direction; just a few years ago I saw Messagésquisse performed at Columbia University, and it was more beautiful and stirring than any recording of it I'd ever listened to. Boulez, however, could be extremely harsh to the point of cruelty in his criticisms. He famously proclaimed Arnold Schoenberg "dead" at the end of an eponymous essay in which he trashed Schoenberg's failure to fully exploit the possibilities of the dodecaphonic system he had developed, and published the essay shortly after that pioneering composer died. Boulez cruelly described the great Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich as "the third pressing...of Mahler," and cast Karl Amadeus Mozart off as "trite." His fallings out with fellow musicians, including his former teacher Leibowitz, and former experimental compatriots John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen, are well recorded. He also apparently never publicly came out of the closet as a gay man, though some critics and many fellow musicians knew about his sexual orientation and relationships. I take all of this into account, but also point to his music itself, which at its best--and there are certainly high points--is the lasting testament of the man.
Pierre Boulez, Répons - Ensemble intercontemporain - Matthias Pintscher, conductor, 2015.
Pierre Boulez, Messagesquisse - Eric-Maria Couturier - Ensemble intercontemporain, Matthias Pintscher, conductor, 2014.
|David Bowie, 2016|
David Bowie - Let's Dance, EMI Music.
David Bowie & Klaus Nomi - TVC15 & Boys Keep... by ZapMan69