Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pierre Boulez — Boulez Conducts Ravel


   In preclassical music functions of composer and conductor were connected with musical profession. There were no conductors famous in contemporary meaning of this word because institutions playing music for open public were quite rare and better part of music was performed under supervision of composers. Most active musicians have to know not only how to write, but also how to teach and how to perform musical works. After classicism, when symphony orchestra was born, and later in 19th century, when performing historic works became main element of concert life, professionalism of the orchestra was subordinate to skillful leading. The result of changes was a specialization of professional musicians in precisely defined fields of musical activity. Many composers were still using their knowledge and skills performing as artists, soloists and conductors. It is significant it was only 19th century when division for creators and performers had started. And still many great musicians were composing music, sometimes with success, as well as many composers were great performers and interpreters of other composers’ works.
   One of first great composers and at the same time one of first internationally famous conductors was Gustav Mahler. As a composer he was developing postromantic musical forms and intentionally creating expressive means of orchestra. He was also one of those modern conductors who worked on sound qualities and expressive possibilities of large symphonic orchestra. After phonographic industry changed mechanisms of musical culture, many artists become more famous for conducting music of other composers than for their own works. For example almost forgotten composer Bruno Walter or recognized and well remembered composer Leonard Bernstein, both were so successful as performing conductors and their fame effectively hidden their creative works. The opposite position occupies Krzysztof Penderecki who is competent conductor but best part of his fame he achieved as a composer. One of greatest examples of balanced combination of various types of musical activity in second half of 20th century is Pierre Boulez. Being one of most significant composers of modern music he is also remarkable conductor, famous for numerous performances and recordings.

Pierre Boulez — Boulez Conducts Ravel (1971)

   As a conductor Boulez revealed masterly abilities to reach the essential idea of other composer’s works and display it with elegant distance. He was focusing especially on these composers who were creating modern musical language of symphonic sound and forms of high complicity. As much appreciated by critics and public for his perfectly balanced, elegant and gentle renditions of most complicated works in postromantic and 20th century music literature, he was specialized in recordings of Mahler, Wagner, and big symphonic repertoire of 20th century. A special place in Boulez performances was always taken by music of French composers, Hector Berlioz, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Manuel de Falla, and Edgar Varese. Every of these composers had monographic album conducted by Boulez. Four years after successful album Boulez Conducts Debussy and two years after Boulez Conducts Debussy, vol.2, CBS produced first choice of Ravel’s works. It was recorded with Cleveland Orchestra which he served in 1970 to 1972 as musical advisor. In Daphnis & Chloé choral parts were performed by The Cleveland Orchestra Chorus working under direction of Margaret Hillis.
   The first choice of Ravel’s symphonic works comprises Daphnis & Chloé: Suite No. 2, Pavane for a Dead Princess, Rapsodie Espagnole and Alborada Del Gracioso. The program was set to show most characteristic features of Ravel’s style. Merging elegance and richness of musical impressions Boulez had interpreted Ravel’s music in explorative and refined way. His renditions revealed profundity of composer’s personality and enhance the emotional nature of musical structures. Especially Daphnis & Chloé was master recording. Although the 1971 album Boulez Conducts Ravel was successful release, it was reissued only once in 1973 in the series Collection Grands Interprètes by France division of CBS. The same time in US division of the company produced series of consecutive recordings under the same title. In 1973 Boulez Conducts Ravel Vol. 2 comprising Le Tombeau De Couperin, Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales and Une Barque Sur L'Océan recorded with New York Philharmonic Orchestra, in 1975 Boulez Conducts Ravel vol. 3 with the program of La Valse, Meneut Antique and complete ballet Ma Mere L'oye. The same 1975 CBS released album of complete ballet Daphnis et Chloé recorded with New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Camarata Singers. And this edition was titled Boulez Conducts Ravel as well. Four and half stars for Boulez-Ravel-Cleveland album – this is fully well-founded rate.

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