Pierre Boulez – Le Domaine Musical (Volume 2)

0 of 5 stars

Berg
Piano Sonata, Op.1
Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op.6
Schoenberg
Chamber Symphony No.1, Op.9
Three Pieces for 12 Instruments
Pierrot Lunaire, Op.21
Serenade, Op.24
Suite, Op.29
Verklärte Nacht Op.4 [String sextet version]
Stravinsky
Agon
Concertino for 12 Instruments
Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet
Three Pieces for String Quartet
Renard
Symphonies of Wind Instruments [1947 Version]
Webern
Cantata No.1, Op.29
Cantata No.2, Op.31
Two Lieder, Op.8
Four Lieder, Op.13
Six Pieces for Orchestra, Op.6 [Revised Version]
Symphony, Op.21
Variations for Piano, Op.27

Guy Depuis (clarinet)

Yvonne Loriod (piano)

Helga Pilarczyk (soprano)

SWF Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden
Hans Rosbaud [Berg Opus 6 & Agon]

Orchestre du Domaine musical
Pierre Boulez

Recorded between 1956 and 1966


Reviewed by: Tristan Jakob-Hoff

Reviewed: September 2006
CD No: ACCORD 476 8862
[4 CDs]
Duration: 4 hours 41 minutes

This is the second volume of Accord’s two-part series celebrating “Le Domaine musical”, the Pierre Boulez-led collective that defined the musical cutting edge in Paris for over a decade.

Though best remembered now for its collaboration with contemporary composers of the 1950s and early 1960s (as documented in the fascinating Volume 1), the Domaine musical ensemble was also crucial in establishing a French fan-base for the Second Viennese School: Schoenberg, Berg and, above all, Webern. It is therefore these three composers, along with that other hero of Modernism, Stravinsky, whose works are represented in Accord’s second offering.

The first set was a veritable treasure-trove, crammed with early performances of important post-World War II masterpieces ranging from Henze to Nono to Boulez himself. The restriction of repertoire in this second volume give it more focus than the first, however, and this, coupled with the performers’ greater familiarity with the works in question, makes it the more compelling of the two.

Schoenberg is the dominant personality here, and the performances of his music are particularly fine. Although Boulez’s approach to Chamber Symphony No.1 will not be to everyone’s taste – at times, it sounds as though he and his ensemble are trying to break some kind of speed-record – it is an undeniably exciting performance, skittering and skirling towards its climactic moments with unflagging energy. His “Pierrot Lunaire”, stylishly sung-spoken by Helga Pilarczyk, is full of colour and incident, with Boulez’s ear for detail very much more in evidence here than it was in Volume 1. The same goes for the marvellous Serenade, a jewel of a piece, baroque in its inspiration, and here coming across as one of Schoenberg’s most imaginative and appealing works. Performances of the relatively rare Suite (Opus 29) and the original string sextet version of Verklärte Nacht round off the Schoenberg part of the collection.

Schoenberg’s great apostles, Berg and Webern, are somewhat less well represented. Yvonne Loriod’s account of the Piano Sonata and Hans Rosbaud’s conducting the Three Pieces for Orchestra (Opus 6) are all we get of the former, whilst the latter’s miniatures are scattered amongst discs in too haphazard a manner to create much of an impression. Though performances of Webern’s Symphony and the two Cantatas are always welcome, Webern fans will already have one or either of Boulez’s infinitely superior accounts in the complete editions issued by Sony and DG.

In fact, ultimately, it is neither the Second Viennese School nor Pierre Boulez who triumphs here. No, it is the aforementioned Hans Rosbaud and his account of Stravinsky’s Agon that, more than anything else, justifies the issue of these discs. While the other Stravinsky works in this collection – including entertaining accounts by Boulez of the little Concertino (which Stravinsky arranged in 1952 for 12 instruments from the 1920 original for string quartet) and the vaudeville “Renard” – are perfectly fine, Rosbaud’s Agon is something very special indeed. Every glistening thread of Stravinsky’s delicate mesh of sound can be heard in the greatest of detail, and the work’s stylistic disconnects – deftly veering between neo-classicism and serialism – have never sounded more natural. Rosbaud shows such care and insight that one cannot fail to be convinced, come the work’s close, that it is Stravinsky’s greatest ballet after The Rite of Spring.

All in all, this is a deeply rewarding collection – even if, like its cousin, it contains one or two indifferent performances. Perhaps a disc’s worth of material could be safely done without – but that still leaves three discs of great music-making. And if each of the two volumes is not without its flaws, the two taken together form a fascinating and essential historical document, making these releases an absolute must for anyone with an interest in 20th-century music.

Distribution in the UK is by Discovery Records (info@discovery-records.com).

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