LABELS: Col legno
WORKS: Polyphonie X; Poésie pour pouvoir; Structures II,
PERFORMER: Soloists; cond. Rosbaud, Boulez (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: WWE 1CD 20509 AAD Reissue (1951-61)
Col Legno’s Collage series is rapidly developing into an important documentary archive for music from the second half of the 20th century. Pride of place in the latest batch goes to the Boulez disc, a collection of world premiere performances. The Tombeau à la mémoire du Prince Max Egon zu Fürstenberg was the 1959 draft of what ultimately became the finale of the masterpiece Pli selon pli, while Polyphonie X from 1951 and Poésie pour pouvoir (1958) are two works with almost mythical status in the Boulez canon; both of them were performed once only before being withdrawn. Polyphonie X is a startlingly severe essay in his most rigorous total serial mode, very close to Stockhausen’s Kontrapunkte in its sound-world, while Poésie was his first attempt to marry live instruments and pre-recorded sounds, raw and powerful in its effect, and prefiguring the vastly more sophisticated works he would produce at IRCAM two decades later.
The three Morton Feldman works include one of his greatest achievements, Rothko Chapel (1971), but all are otherwise available in performances of greater poise and concentration, and though the Schnittke disc contains some eloquent performances, especially by Gidon Kremer and Tatiana Grindenko in the First Concerto Grosso, his music has been all too well surveyed elsewhere.
Gubaidulina’s String Trio is relatively well known, but the devotional Hour of the Soul, written for the virtuoso percussionist Mark Pekarsky in 1974, and Night in Memphis from six years earlier are not, and the latter in particular is a starkly eloquent piece, using Russian translations of ancient Egyptian texts.
The Rihm collection plugs some important gaps in the discography of this hugely prolific and immensely important composer, too, from the discomfiting, quasi-theatrical Wölfli-Lieder (1982) and torrential Klavierstück No. 7 (1980) to the intricately laced Frau/Stimme (1989), with its two female voices embedded in the orchestral textures, and the austere In-Schrift of 1995, one of his finest recent works for orchestra.