Something Borrowed, Something New

1 Jun

From poet and classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz of UMass-Boston on Fresh Air :

For more than 50 years Pierre Boulez has been at the forefront of classical music as a composer, conductor and radical thinker. He turned 85 years old in March and shows little sign of slowing down, with a continuing flow of CDs and DVDs to his credit.

One of the newest, a CD of music by Igor Stravinsky is one of Boulez’s best.

* * * *

The disc also includes Stravinsky’s complete Pulcinella, not just the abbreviated Suite, which leaves out the charming, sexy songs. Stravinsky composed this scintillating commedia dell’arte ballet for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

Stravinsky himself regarded Pulcinella as his first neo-classical work, both his discovery of the past, and his transformation of it. He boldly borrowed themes he thought were all by the 18th-century Italian composer Pergolesi, though it turned out some of them were actually by a number of other minor composers. But even though the tunes themselves aren’t by Stravinsky, his syncopated rhythms and dazzling, even hilarious combinations of instruments make Pulcinella one of his most original, most modern, most ‘Stravinskyan’ scores. And in the hands of Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, one of his most sparkling.

On a new DVD, Inheriting the Future of Music, you can watch Boulez working on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with young conductors and players at the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland. They adore him because he doesn’t condescend to them. And not a note escapes his attention.

Listen here.

We here at IB love radical thinkers, and in the Schwartz piece, we have two fine examples. We also love those who “boldly borrow” as a path to their “most original” work, and we’re fascinated as well with how Stravinsky used the works of others to come up with some of his most “Stravinskyan” work (like some others we know).

We also love those who don’t “condescend” when they work with others, even when they hold positions of authority.

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