(K. Brent Tomer),
FEW figures were cooler or calmer than Pierre Boulez on the podium. He conducted without a baton, lifting the phrases and flicking them away with long, elegant fingers. The rest of his body did not move, impassive and commanding as a man lightly trimming a hedge; his face was a stone mask, only his darting eyes revealing how he was excavating the music, uncovering the layers and rebuilding them in structures of crystal clarity. Many said he was the finest conductor-composer since Richard Strauss. Every inch of him suggested that he was well aware of that.
Inside the statue, though, was gelignite. Music, to him, was in permanent revolution; but since there had been no proper upheaval since the Renaissance, he was leading one. For 50 years he was at war, or in a state of uneasy truce, with the musical establishment, fighting to make the deaf, incurious or plain uncultured appreciate the works of their own time.
The composers of the 20th century—Schoenberg, Webern, Nono, Ligeti, himself—were woefully neglected and unplayed. This he vowed to change, first by challenging the canon known as “popular”. Opera houses, “full…Continue reading