Thursday, March 26, 2015

Maurizio Pollini – Anton Webern: Variations Op. 27; Pierre Boulez: Second Piano Sonata

THE 90th ANNIVERSARY OF PIERRE BOULEZ'S BIRTH

   Pierre Boulez born March 26, 1925 in Montbrison, Loire is one of the greatest composers of contemporary music. He is also great interpreter of 19th and 20th century, especially big forms of late romantic music, well known for inspired recordings of symphonies of Mahler and Bruckner and Wagner’s operas and great collection of 20th century classics, Debussy, Stravinsky, Bartok, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern and Varese. He was a student of Olivier Messiaen where he had learned twelve-tone technique and later continued his experiments being considered as one of post-webernian serial style composers. Creative activity of Pierre Boulez continues from 1940’s. He composed numerous works – giving his contribution in integral serialism, aleatoric music and electronic music, he created one of the best collections of contemporary music of seven decades.
   Second Sonata for Piano by Pierre Boulez, finished in 1948 when he was 23 years old, is famous as consequently creative and extremely difficult piano piece. The main composer’s idea was to give the twelve-tone series “a functional meaning, a motivic and thematic meaning in relation to certain functions which they had to assume in the work”. He merged techniques of serialism with his own idea of developing series of intervals into linked motives. This idea of evanescent thematism is the base for first movement Extrêmement rapide (Extremely fast). Second movement Lent (Slow) is a variation form on very large scale of changing elements and sustained material. Third movement Modéré, presque vif (Moderate, almost lively) is merging elements of variation and scherzo. Fourth movement Vif (Lively) is constructed in two parts – a slow fugue distracting in abstract formulas and fast part which in decided motives find formal balance without closing thematic material.

Pollini – Webern Variations, Boulez Piano Sonata No. 2 (1978)

   The whole Second Sonata for Piano in composer’s own words was an attempt of destroying the classical form. Pierre Boulez wrote it was his only work related to a historic form, noticing: “I have always found a form which was conceived along with the idea itself”. It’s interesting from the point of view of musical forms history, how creativity was defined by relation to the forms. In great album of Maurizio Pollini Second Sonata for Piano has been paired with Variations for Piano Solo, Op. 27 by Anton Webern. This short, three-part, six-minute only composition is an example of emerging serialism. Composed between October 1935 and November 1936 Variations reveal transition to late period of Webern’s creative work. This compact, tight and consequent work is based on one series, contrapuctal canonic work and clear methods of manipulating the series, its inversion and retrograde. Its complex and concise form was a model for whole generation of composers after war.
   These two works, Variations Op. 27 by Anton Webern and Piano Sonata No. 2 by Pierre Boulez are substantial for serialistic music. These two works were finished in span of 12 years. Those years comprised 2nd world war, Holocaust and atomic bomb first use. It was crucial moment not only for 20th century music. Both are significant as the formal method and as esthetic tendency. Recorded in virtuoso, perfectly interpreted and played performance of Maurizio Pollini it was published by Deutsche Grammophon in 1978 (2530 803). It is one of the best albums in collection of contemporary classics. And complete five stars is only a small justice for Pollini’s renditions of these works. 

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