A similar strategy was evident in Szymanowskis First Violin Concerto. Boulezs take on this composer, whose music he will be investigating further, is that of a synthesis between Ravel and Bartók. The voluptuousness was held firmly in check by a textural clarity still rarely encountered in this music, at the same time revealing a deft three-movements-in-one design. At one with this approach was Christian Tetzlaff, his tonal purity and poised but never frigid expression a sure guide to the musics escapism and fantasy and with the brief cadenza made more of a catalyst to the main climax than usual. At around 22 minutes, this knocked six minutes off the magical account from Kyoko Takezawa and Tadaaki Otaka heard at this summers Proms, though the impression here was less one of faster tempi than lightness of articulation. Eschewing the rhapsodic, it never compromised the musics sense of intuitive unfolding, or the inevitability as it comes full circle.
If the second half was marginally less engrossing, this was because Boulezs credentials in Webern and Bartók are proven with, unlike the passionate reassessment of Debussys Faune in the first of these concerts, no real interpretative surprises. Beautifully played, the Op.6 Pieces even seemed a touch safe though, unusually, Boulez appeared to have opted for the 1928 revision, with its more precisely calculated sonorities and self-contained expressive limits. [Boulez told me that with Op.6 on the LSOs Japanese tour, it was uneconomic to play the original version on this occasion Ed.] Even so, he can tease out overall coherence from the musics pointillist soundworld like no other conductor.
In terms of marrying emotional intensity and realising some near-impossible instrumental balances, this was probably the most compulsive Miraculous Mandarin of the numerous accounts Boulez has given in London. With the symmetry of actions and musical motifs firmly drawn, it lived on the edge only as the music demanded the LSO responding virtuosically in a work to which it has long done justice. Fittingly, it was in the final third the post-Suite portion that the performance really took flight, as the lurid scenario was conjured up in Bartóks most audacious orchestration, and with the bleak irony of the mandarins final release much in evidence. Proof, once again, that Boulez the interpreter does not stand still, but uncovers new subtleties by degree.
- LSO/Boulez in Japan, October 21-29:
- 21, Tokyo Boulez, Bartók, Stravinsky
- 22, Sopporo Scriabin, Szymanowski, Stravinsky
- 23, Tokyo Bartók, Mahler
- 24, Oita Bartók, Mahler
- 26, Toyota Bartók, Mahler
- 27, Fukui Bartók, Stravinsky
- 29, Tokyo Scriabin, Szymanowski, Webern, Bartók