Boulez: Répons; Dialogue de l’ombre double

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WORKS: Répons; Dialogue de l’ombre double
PERFORMER: Alain Damiens (clarinet); Ensemble InterContemporain/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: Ô20/21Õ 457 605-2
After years of focusing its attentions on recording benchmark readings of the standard, mainly Germanic contemporary repertoire, DG proposes to issue ten new-music CDs a year in this new series, 20/21, comprising both freshly recorded material and reissues which will reflect a broad stylistic range. In the first batch of releases, André Previn’s new opera A Streetcar Named Desire (see Opera) and orchestral music by Takemitsu (see left) rub shoulders with the complete Berio Sequenzas and the long-overdue reappearance of two classic Kagel scores, 1898 and Music for Renaissance Instruments, while this autumn we can look forward to CDs of music by Carter, Pärt, Henze and Bernstein.


This Boulez disc is perhaps the most desirable of the initial offerings, containing as it does the first recording of Répons, the work regarded by many as the composer’s chef d’oeuvre. It’s not hard to see why; for, compared with the brittle modernism of Le marteau sans maître and the baleful, impenetrable nihilism of Pli selon pli (earlier Boulez works comparable in size and scope), the 40-minute-version of this ‘work-in-progress’ recorded here, while no less rigorously conceived and executed, sounds positively urbane. Like its companion piece on the disc, Dialogue de l’ombre double for solo clarinet, it employs IRCAM’s state-of-the-art computer systems to effect breathtaking ‘real-time transformations’ of its live material. While the twists and turns of the musical argument may, initially, prove elusive, few, I suspect, will be able to resist its unquenchable élan and scintillating sonorities. Antony Bye