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4.3.05

Elliott Carter's Happy Birthday to Boulez

To go along with our Boulez theme lately (see Jens's post on March 1), there is this article (Elliott Carter fête les 80 ans de Pierre Boulez avec de souriantes "Reflexions", February 20) by Pierre Gervasoni for Le Monde. There is a collegial relationship of mutual admiration between the two composers, and this is only the most recent birthday piece Carter has dedicated to Boulez: for Boulez's 60th birthday, Carter composed Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux (which was revised for his 70th birthday), and a piece called Retrouvailles pour piano for his 75th. At the only concert Boulez conducted for his 80th birthday celebrations in Paris, with Ensemble Intercontemporain at the Cité de la Musique, Boulez conducted the world premiere of his 80th birthday present from Carter, Réflexions, pour ensemble (my translation):

As smiling as you could want, with multiple winks and nods to the hero of the day, Réflexions does not fall into the mold of the occasional piece and manifests the stunning vitality of a musician who is nearing his centenary. Boulez was thrilled. The audience was, too, during its repeated ovation of Carter, a character who is as eccentric on the stage with his whirling cane as he he is fantastic in a score with its battery of rollers! The two Boulez pieces that frame this joyful creation illustrate well the duality of "esprit rude, esprit doux" evoked above. Rarely performed, Cummings ist der Dichter (1970–1986) is typical of a base style of instrumental scratchings and sophisticated resonances. The chorus (the 33 very flexible voices of the Accentus Ensemble) is treated in it like a drum with a hypersensitive skin. Played more often, Dérive 2 is a 24-minute fireworks display. Created for the 80th birthday of, you guessed it, Elliott Carter, this virtuosic page stands in a direct line with Arnold Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony, op. 9 (1906), which began the concert.
For more information on the celebrations of Boulez's 80th birthday, see my post from February 12.

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