Anyone fortunate enough to have heard conductor Pierre Boulez lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through Bela Bartok's "Bluebeard's Castle" last month in Ann Arbor can attest to the exceptional quality of this marriage of conductor and orchestra. A long string of vibrant recordings attests to the same charisma, and a terrific new all-Stravinsky disc (FOUR STARS out of four stars, CSO-Resound), headlined by the neoclassic "Pulcinella" and the craggy Symphony in Three Movements, offers fresh evidence . . . Boulez has a legendary gift for rendering a score with striking transparency, balance, precision and intellectual pop -- qualities that focus and discipline the CSO's famously muscular sound, reining in what can easily become too much of a good thing. On the other hand, the orchestra's brawny expression pulls Boulez out of his shell, promoting his most expressive work . . . Taped in early 2009, the Stravinsky disc bursts with coiled energy and vibrant color. For a quick snapshot of the Boulez effect, listen to the high-wire intensity of the first movement of the symphony, where in both full ensemble outbursts and lighter syncopated passages for strings, winds and piano, the clarified tonal blend allows you to hear each instrument and the gestalt. As the movement continues, a churning undertow, impeccably enunciated, seems to stalk the tart melodic lines above. The impact is electric. In a revealing interview in the CD booklet, Boulez calls "Pulcinella" a game, and there is a winsome, playful quality to the performance that belies the conductor's reputation as an ideologue.
. . . these later digital recordings are more refined and detailed than those of the earlier generation, and with three of the world's greatest orchestras -- the Cleveland, Chicago Symphony and Berlin Philharmoniker, together with the Ensemble InterContemporain in the two discs of smaller-scale pieces and songs -- the playing is outstanding . . . the performances carry such a sense of power.
Few conductors have invigorated repertoires with the verve that Pierre Boulez has brought to his interpretations of Stravinsky, compiled here across six CDs . . . Bristling with energetic innovation, at £20-25 it's an absolute bargain.
Few conductors have invigorated repertoires with the verve that Pierre Boulez has brought to his interpretations of Stravinsky . . . [The later discs] contain unexpected jewels . . . [Bristling with energetic innovation] it's an absolute bargain.
Pierre Boulez conducts Stravinsky with unusual distinction . . . . [These recordings] remain hugely impressive. Boulez¿s performance of The Rite of Spring will make you fall in love with the work all over again, and his delight in the textures and colours of the composer¿s various styles communicates vividly. Listening to these performances with some of the world¿s greatest orchestras and ensembles (the Chicago Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic) and the Ensemble InterContemporain, the sum almost seems greater than the parts.