A world premiere recording of a piece by Boulez is reason enough to invest in this disc, but the ‘comprovisations’ which complete the recording cannot help but intrigue. Recorder player Erik Bosgraaf pairs up with ‘laptop artist’ Jorrit Tamminga for a series of seven Dialogues, in which the sound of the recorder is captured and transformed by electronics. However, one can imagine these works being much more successful in a live context: the Dialogues are of variable musical interest, meaning that some stand up to repeated listens much better than others. The situation is not helped by the intricacy of the Boulez.
It seemed strange that Pierre Boulez should be absent at his own 90th birthday celebrations, especially those of an ensemble with whom he holds such a strong connection. Having been closely involved with the ensemble during the 1960s, Boulez was appointed Chief Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra between 1971 and 1974. He was widely considered to have raised the standards of the ensemble, who gave a number of premières of Boulez’s own music. Comprising of two films, three concerts and a talk, the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s Total Immersion day could only ever scrape the surface of Boulez’s contribution to music. The selected works emphasised the longevity and the range of his musical output, ranging from 1945-2005. The lunchtime concert featured Boulez’s Piano Sonata no. 2 (1947-1948) and his Éclat/Multiples (1965, 1970), offering a glimpse into the composer’s aesthetic stance at three different moments.
Grisey, Dufourt, Boulez and… Beethoven? It might have been an inspired programming choice, the intricate orchestration of the contemporary French works contrasting with the directness of Beethoven’s textures. However, it was this much-loved audience favourite which proved to be the weak link in what was otherwise an excellent performance from the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov at the Barbican.