Boulez: Rituel in memoriam Maderna; Notations I, II, III, IV, VII; Figures-Doubles-Prismes

Rituel in memoriam Maderna; Notations I, II, III, IV, VII; Figures-Doubles-Prismes
Lyon National Orchestra/David Robertson
Naïve Montaigne
Catalogue Number:
MO 782163
BBC Music Magazine

If ever completed, Notations will consist of 12 orchestral studies, expansions of the set of piano miniatures Boulez composed as a student in 1945. Each that has appeared so far – five over the last quarter of a century – is a miracle of expressive concision and textural sleights of hand. David Robertson, who worked with Boulez at the Ensemble InterContemporain, conducts those five, including what is only the second recording of Notation VII, premiered four years ago. His account is far more precise and controlled than its rival, a rather rough-and-ready performance from Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony. Figures-Doubles-Prismes is evidently another work in progress, though the version here has remained unchanged now for more than 30 years. It’s perhaps Boulez’s most underrated and under-performed piece, one of the few he composed in the late Sixties when his conducting career was beginning to gather momentum. Its melding of sonorities, involving a total rethink of what an orchestral tutti might be, remains a wonderfully fresh and luminous example of the extra craft and deepening orchestral knowledge he was so rapidly acquiring at that time. Robertson handles the score’s complexities confidently if without quite the same certainty and energy as Boulez himself did in 1985, though the new recording is much airier, its textures cleaner. Neither does he quite displace his former mentor in Rituel, Boulez’s nearest thing to a repertoire piece; Robertson captures its hieratic quality, but not the remorseless tread the composer himself gives it. Andrew Clements

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