Pierre Boulez: Live at the Louvre

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Stravinsky
LABELS: Ideale Audience International DVD
WORKS: The Firebird; Fireworks, Op. 4; plus Pierre Boulez Introduces Stravinsky’s Firebird
PERFORMER: Orchestre de Paris/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 307 8628


The Firebird was first produced 100 years ago, so new recordings are hardly a surprise. Nonetheless, a brace of Firebirds on DVD from one conductor, Pierre Boulez, suggests poor planning somewhere.

The first comes from the opening concert of the 2008 Salzburg, and the second from a free concert in the pyramid at the Louvre in December the same year.

In both cases, the complete ballet is presented. Or, rather, the entirety of Stravinsky’s music, raising the question of why, on DVD, anyone would prefer to see the work in concert rather than a full production. Do dance enthusiasts like to watch it with the sound turned down?

The Paris concert was clearly a remarkable event, but, other than a historical record, it is far from satisfying on DVD. Yellow lighting casts a surreal glow, exacerbated by poor correlation between sound and visuals, resulting in a continued sense of dislocation.

Cameras swoop around the orchestra in dizzying fashion to no particular purpose, and in one of the long shots, the pictures are off the beat to the music, the violin bows of the Orchestre de Paris moving between the notes.

The 45-minute bonus feature seems tempting, but the title, ‘Pierre Boulez Introduces Stravinsky’s Firebird’, is misleading. It is a film of a commendable educational event associated with the concert, with explanations of the music and story illustrated by live extracts conducted by Boulez.

However, the overwhelming majority of the ‘introducing’ of the work is done, in French (with subtitles), by Hélène Jarry – a name that you will search in vain to find even mentioned on the box or in the booklet of this DVD.


The performances of The Firebird in both concerts have their exciting moments, but also some scrappy ones, and there are several points, such as the appearance of the monsters, which are decidedly earthbound.