Boulez: sur Incises; Messagesquisse; Anthèmes 2

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COMPOSERS: Boulez
LABELS: DG Ô20/21′
WORKS: sur Incises; Messagesquisse; Anthèmes 2
PERFORMER: Jean-Guihen Queyras (cello), Hae-Sun Kang (violin); Ensemble InterContemporain, Paris Cello Ensemble/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 463 475-2

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What links the three works here is the way in which they were conceived: all of them grew out of existing compositions, in an approach that has become a familiar Boulez technique over the last two decades. He takes a small and apparently insignificant miniature as the kernel of something more elaborate and substantial, in a process of expansion that theoretically has no end point.

Here Messagesquisse for seven cellos is a development of a solo cello piece, while Anthèmes 2, in which a solo violin is pitted against electronic reflections of itself, is a second-generation product, deriving from the solo-violin Anthèmes, which in turn grew out of a fragment of the original sketch of …explosante-fixe… that has spawned so many of Boulez’s later works. But it is the major work here, sur Incises, that shows this technique at its most expansive. A piano piece (Incises), written for a competition in 1994, became the starting point for a virtuoso study in sonority for trios of pianos, harps and tuned percussion, as different aspects of the original – running figuration, trills, modes of attack – are refracted and extended. The result is a shimmering, crystalline structure which epitomises Boulez’s sound-world, in which everything is transient and often hypnotically beautiful.

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Andrew Clements