You are looking at a performance from our archive
If there’s anything which epitomises Pierre Boulez, it must be his sense of adventure. This year the pioneer of abstraction, experiment and electronics in music will reach the age of ninety, an occasion which we celebrate with this musical and theatrical journey through his eventful life as a musician. The sets for the show have been designed by Pierre Boulez’ close friend, the famous architect Frank Gehry, and created by Beyond the Score® Creative Director Gerard McBurney. Key passages from Boulez’ oeuvre, performed live by Asko|Schönberg and Slagwerk Den Haag, are seamlessly interconnected by narrated excerpts from letters and poems and dynamic, atmospheric projections of archival and new video footage of Boulez. It’s a great opportunity to discover the fascinating world of one of the greatest composers and conductors of our time.
Include excerpts from the following works by Pierre Boulez:
Derive II (2009)
une page d’ephemeride (2005)
Anthemes I (1992)
Derive I (1984)
Improvisation sur Mallarme 1 (1957)
Notations V + XI (1945)
...explosante-fixe... original (1985)
Improvisation on Mallarme II (1957)
Dialogue de l’ombre double (1984)
Le marteau sans maitre :
parts III + VIII (1955)
Structures livre I (1946)
‘I want to have the surprise and enjoyment of discovery’
– Pierre Boulez
After previous musical portraits of Varèse, Xenakis, Cage and Nono, the Holland Festival is honouring the French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez in this 68th edition. Boulez’s importance in the postwar music world can hardly be overestimated. The master has had a huge influence on both his contemporaries and younger composers.
One of the productions focusing on Pierre Boulez is Beyond the Score®: A Portrait of Pierre Boulez, performed by Asko|Schönberg, Slagwerk Den Haag and actress Bracha van Doesburg under the direction of Etienne Siebens. The world premiere took place in Chicago on 14 November, performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the company for which Boulez is conductor emeritus. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra initiated this project as part of Beyond the Score®, a multimedia concert series that the orchestra has been organizing for some ten years now. The projects in this series take a composition and scrutinize it: verbal explanation before the interval, performance of the entire piece after the interval. In Boulez’s case, instead of a single composition, a full evening’s programme comprising a cross-section of his oeuvre was chosen. After the premiere, Los Angeles Splash Magazines wrote, ‘A more fitting tribute to Boulez than this first ever Beyond the Score program of a living artist is difficult to imagine.’
In the highly accessible production Beyond the Score®: A Portrait of Pierre Boulez, video snippets and sound bites alternate with live performances of orchestral excerpts. The architect Frank Gehry, a good friend of Boulez’s, designed and choreographed large white movable panels on which archival footage of the composer–conductor is projected: there’s a conversation between Boulez and Stravinsky, but also recent interviews recorded at Boulez’s home in Baden-Baden. During the performance, extras move the panels, lending the visuals a lively presence. Every now and then, they also walk around the musicians with smart phones; the resulting footage is simultaneously projected on the panels.
Short excerpts from films highlight various aspects of Boulez’s character: his life in Paris during and right after the war, his thoughts on music, his musical universe, and his musical and literary heroes. Visuals alternate with music – sixteen musical excerpts in all. Works like Dérive I and II, Incises, Anthèmea, Improvisation sur Mallarmé, Structure livre I and …explosante-fixe…, pass in review, interspersed with a lot of solo material.
The creative mind behind the Beyond the Score® concerts is Gerard McBurney. Rather than trying to give a full and exhaustive review of Boulez’s life and work, he took an associative approach. As a result, Boulez’s work becomes accessible. There are no stern lectures on serialism, for instance, but we do get to hear an appealing story about ‘new material’. Boulez draws a parallel with architecture, remarking that nowadays we no longer build houses with the materials and techniques that were used in the 18th century. The music of our time also requires new materials so that we can discover new forms. Meanwhile, the harmonic building blocks – intervals, chords, inversions – pass by, with projections of musical notation, and Boulez himself as narrator.