Boulez: Pli selon pli

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COMPOSERS: Boulez
LABELS: DG ’20/21′
WORKS: Pli selon pli
PERFORMER: Christine Schäfer (soprano); Ensemble InterContemporain/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 471 344-2
As a symbol of Pierre Boulez’s commitment to perfection, Pli selon pli (Fold Upon Fold) stands uniquely within his own output and 20th-century music. Originating in 1957, it was completed only in 1989, the result of half a lifetime of visions and revisions. The final form is now documented on this recording, in a lustrous performance from his musicians-of-choice, the Ensemble InterContemporain, captured on its home territory at another of his brain-children, Paris’s Cité de la Musique.

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Boulez has recorded other versions of Pli selon pli with performers linked to earlier phases of his career, notably the BBC Symphony Orchestra. This latest reading from DG (following on from its release of Répons) is as definitive a statement as can reasonably be expected. Little is left to the imagination, except for the unanswered question of how and why our ears and minds perceive this music – as powerful yet elusive in syntax and semantics as the poetry of Mallarmé to which it pays tribute – as clearly as they do.

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Radiant and precisely pitched, the voice of Christine Schäfer complements the ensemble’s glowing timbre. At ease with the notes and where they are going, the group’s playing throughout is a potent realisation of the composer’s ideal of extended chamber music. Nicholas Williams