Modernist showcase of impassioned performances
scarecrow | Chicago, Illinois United States | 12/02/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The on-going winter residencies of Pierre Boulez with the Chicago Symphony is fast becoming legendary. Maitre Boulez began over ten years ago with concerts of the modernist repertoire of Berg, Bartok, Stravinsky, Webern, and proceeded backwards with fascinating readings of Mahler and Bruckner.
These relatively recent post-romantic rendevous for Boulez began many years ago with his associations with Otto Klemperer in London in the Sixties. Boulez was a frequent enthusiastic attendee to Klemperer rehearsals and these interpretive experiences have remained with him.Here the selections from "Lulu" are sketchlike premonitions of the power of this subversive 12 tone opera. Ms.Schaefer sings in between well placed orchestral 'interludes' so that the ambience is much like a concert aria-tone-poem, without the vocal moments dominating. The CSO playing reflects typically the Boulez penchant for, clean, precise,balanced moments, not afraid of rendering ugly expressionistic timbres,structurally controlled to its details.The thorny, sculpted structures are very clear. Ms. Schaefer has a commanding stage persona,non-threateningly beautiful,with short auburn hair with a rich uncompromising voice, dark when necessary, and deeply mindful of the lyricism that was the creative center for Berg's aesthetic.
She brings this sensitivity to the two Debussy orchestral songs as well, one early work from Baudelaire and the three Villon settings from Debussy's mature years.Included here as well is the complete "Firebird" something Boulez had actually instigated many years ago as opposed to indulging popular tastes with the quick fix "Firebird Suite".
The complete "Firebird" rendered within the concert hall venue only works if you have wonderful players, those who now, from CSO understand the Boulez interpretive vocabulary quite well. John Bruce Yeh the Eb Clarinetist is one formidable soloist in the well known dance, which extends past to more clarinet hih register exposure.Also Adolph Herseth, trumpet, Dale Clevenger, Horn, Charles Pikler, Viola, Samuel Magad, Violin. They all also impart their soloistic visions in the service of this massive work.
There is then a brief discussion between Pierre Boulez and Daniel Barenboim, this was quite interesting with a focus on some of Boulez's approaches to conducting the modernist repertoire, that there are more layers to clarify within modernist repertoire. They also spoke of the importance of Wagner, as the first modernist in retrospect."