Monday, July 23, 2007

Boulez - Rituel In Memoriam Maderna


Bruno Maderna was a close friend of Pierre Boulez. In 1958 Boulez and Maderna were conductors of two of the three orchestras in the fraught premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Gruppen, the third orchestra was directed by the composer. My picture above, from the Stockhausen archive, was taken at a rehearsal for the premiere in Cologne. Left clicking on the image will enlarge it. Stockhausen is conducting orchestra 1 on the left, Maderna orchestra 2 in the centre, and Boulez orchestra 3 on the right. The photo at the foot of the article shows Boulez, Maderna and Stockhausen in Darmstadt in 1956, and, interestingly, was taken by Hans Keller. .

Maderna's relationship with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was established before Boulez's period as the orchestra's chief conductor, and was one of the many fruits of William Glock's period as BBC Controller of Music between 1959 and 1972. Maderna made his debut with the orchestra in 1959 when he gave the first public performance in Britain of Schoenberg's Op. 22 Songs, together with the symphonic extracts from Berg's Lulu and Stravinsky's Les Noces.

Maderna conducted the BBC Symphony in the notorious premiere of Luigi Nono's uncompromisingly left wing opera Intolleranza at the 1961 Venice Biennale. Protests included stink bombs thrown at the orchestra in the first act, and after the interval Maderna turned up the volume of the pre-recorded chorus parts to drown out the dissenters. In those pre-Classic FM days the BBC relayed the performance live from Venice.

In his invaluable autobiography Notes in Advance (OUP ISBN 0198161921) William Glock writes ~ Maderna himself was one of the most sympathetic human beings I have known, a man of great warmth and amplitude, always generous to other musicians without being blind to their failings. A familiar sight (at Dartington) was to see him with a bottle of wine under each arm and a hamper of food, which he would then cook and devour with friends with the gusto that marked everything he did. As a conductor he achieved authority and friendliness together, and would congratulate individual players on some felicitous phrases in their performance. But, though he was a leader of the avant-garde to whom many others such as Luigi Nono owed a great deal, he did not shut himself away from the music of the past, and more than once I played the Mozart Sonata for two pianos with him, and saw the way he revelled in it".

In 1970 Maderna premiered his Quadrivium with the BBC Symphony, a performance that prompted a perceptive critic to describe the work as - "a large piece, around half an hour long, full of exuberant, romantic, well-wined music, expertly constructed, beautifully scored." Maderna was a regular guest with the orchestra while Boulez was chief conductor, and it was during this period that I was fortunate to see Maderna conduct. I have already praised his Mahler Ninth here which I heard in the 1972 Proms, an interpretation which critic Dominic Gill described as - "both convincing and moving. In human, dramatic terms often very impressive...the final pages were absolutely right." Maderna was also a champion of Elisabeth Lutyens, and programmed her Music for Orchestra 1 with the BBC Symphony.

In March 1972 Boulez conducted Maderna's Aura in place of a new work of his own which was unfinished. In the autumn of that year Maderna was to have conducted a BBC Symphony concert including his Third Oboe Concerto, but he fell seriously ill and withdrew. In November 1972 Maderna died, and this tragedy provided the inspiration for Boulez to complete his unfinished commission.


Rituel in Memoriam Maderna is one of a series of musical memorials by Boulez, which include the Tombeau added to Pli selon pli for Prince zu Fürstemberg, ..explosante - fixe... for Stravinsky, and Messagesquisse for Paul Sacher. Rituel is scored for eight separate groups of instruments, including double percussion in one group. The clarity of structure and Eastern sounding percussion makes Rituel one of the most accessible of Boulez's compositions, and William Glock described it as "the majestic processional in memory of Bruno Maderna". The photo above shows Pierre Boulez at the BBC Maida Vale studios in 1969, before a rehearsal for the premiere of Pli selon pli with the BBC Symphony.

The premiere of the BBC commissioned Rituel in Memoriam Maderna was given by Pierre Boulez and the BBC Symphony Orchestra in April 1975. In November 1976 Boulez and the orchestra recorded the work for CBS in the Henry Wood Hall, London. The fine recording, produced by Paul Myers and Roy Emerson and engineered by Bob Auger, is still in the catalogue at mid-price. It still sounds wonderful, and is highly recommended both as a valuable document of Pierre Boulez the composer, and a moving tribute to Bruno Maderna the musician. The CD couplings of Eclat and Multiples were recorded with Boulez and the Ensemble InterContemporain at IRCAM in Paris.

Staying with Pierre Boulez, IRCAM and the Ensemble InterContemporain, Deutsche Grammophon has just re-released important recordings of three of his later works, Sur Incises (1996/1998), Messagesquisse (1976-1977) and Anthèmes (1997). The CD was recorded in Paris in 1999 with the composer conducting the Soloists of the Ensemble InterContemporain in the first two works. Wonderful music, wonderfully recorded, and in today's crazy music market it is retailing in the UK for just £6.99 ($13). Both this re-release and the CD of Rituel In Memoriam Maderna are musts, both for card carrying Boulez fans, and for any readers who haven't yet been fortunate enough to discover his special sound world.


For more Bruno Maderna resources follow this path,
Picture credits. Pictures 1 and 3 Stockhausen archive, picture 2 BBC. Nicholas Kenyon's excellent book The BBC Symphony Orchestra contains invaluable listings of the premieres given by that great orchestra. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

9 comments:

Pliable said...

Both Bruno Maderna and Pierre Boulez have recorded Mahler's epic Ninth Symphony. I bought Boulez's account with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra when it came out in 1998, but have rarely listened to it since as it had struck me as one work where Boulez's musical sang-froid doesn't really work, particularly in the vital last movement.

I dug it out of my 'reserve collection' while writing this post and re-auditioned it. It certainly doesn't have the power of Maderna's reading, but there is some wonderful music making there (and fine playing from the CSO), and I think, perhaps, my judgement was too harsh. I'll keep it out of the reserve collection for some further listening.

Now wouldn't it be interesting to hear Karlheinz Stockhausen's reading of Mahler's Ninth?

Pliable said...

Boulez's predilection for composing memorial pieces is also found in one of his heroes, Stravinsky.

Symphonies for Wind Instruments for Debussy, Variations for Aldous Huxley, Introitus for T.S. Eliot, Ode for Natalia Koussevitsky and In Memoriam Dylan Thomas immediately spring to mind, but I am sure readers will add more.

Garth Trinkl said...

On another matter, Karlheinz Stockhausen's cadenza for Haydn's violin concerto isn't half as grotesque as is Alfred Schnittke's famous cadenza for the Beethoven concerto...

Epitaphium "für das Grabmal des Prinzen Max Egon zu Fürstenberg" (1959); Double Canon "Raoul Dufy in Memoriam" (1959); and Elegy for J. F. K. (1964) are other Stravinsky memorial examples; which, like the last two you cite, are also hexachordal 12 tone ... [Roger Sessions was perhaps America's leading composer of individualist, public elegies.]

Perhaps one could also ask if there are works by Gyorgy Kurtag which do not bare a memorial or other inscription.

*

(I recall hearing James Levine conduct Bruno Maderna's moving Quadrivium with (I believe) the Juilliard Orchestra, in March 1976. Though I don't recall it being explicitly a memorial performance, it indicated that the young, tremendously gifted James Levine was connected to the world-wide -- and not just American -- classical music world.)

Pliable said...

Nice link.

Henry Holland said...

Ah, one my favorite Paths of yours Pliable since I started to read OAOP two (three?) years ago.

I love Rituel in Memoriam Maderna, I listened to it on my iPod a few weeks ago. I wish that there was more than one official recording of it or I could find some live versions on my usual file theft sites.

I know Boulez is The Great Bogeyman of 20th Century music along with Schoenberg, and while I certainly don't like all of his pieces, there are some that are among my favorite pieces of music.

I went to a performance of Pli selon Pli at the Concertgebouw when I was in Amsterdam recently and despite the excellent performance by the ASKO Ensemble and Barbara Hannigan I wasn't impressed by the piece all that much; I hadn't heard it in a while.

I keep hoping that a performance of the amazing Repons will take place in the US so I can easily afford to travel to hear it but it's obviously very complicated to do in a live situation.

About 15 years ago (?) Mr. Boulez conducted the four Notations that he had then completed the orchestral versions for here in Los Angeles with the Philharmonic and it was one of the most stunning things I've ever heard in a concert hall. The Phil back then could just barely play the pieces (they'd have no problem now that Mr. Salonen has whipped them in to shape) but what stunning music. I've really wanted Mr. Boulez to come back and conduct here, anything will do, but he hasn't been here in at least a decade. I wonder if he and Mr. Salonen had a falling out? :-(

Great picture of the set-up for the Gruppen premiere and what handsome men Boulez and Stockhausen are in the bottom picture. There's apparently going to be a book about the gay aspect of the Darmstadt group appearing soon and while I will buy it instantly, I'm also afraid that the revelations in it will be used to browbeat that group, much like if you read some of the criticism of Britten in the 40's-70's, there's a barely disguised layer of homophobia to it. As if a lot of people needed the gay angle to denigrate the Darmstadt composers, any excuse along the lines of "they killed classical music" will do! :-)

Oliver said...

I'm not sure if this is the best place to ask this question, but do you, Pliable, or any other read of this blog, happen to know if a recording was made of Boulez's 2004 Bayreuth performances of Parsifal, and if so, whether there are plans to release it?

Pliable said...

Oliver, I have no knowledge of anyy plans for a commercial release of the 2004 Parsifal, but readers may have other information.

With Boulez's 1970 Bayreuth Parsifal still in the DG catalogue (and only released on CD in 1992) the release of a second version does seem unlikely.

Andrea said...

Thanks for the interesting post, just a small correction: Maderna died in November 1973, not 1972.

Tassilo said...

Pliable writes that he rarely listens to Boulez’s DG recording of Mahler’s 9th with the Chicago Symphony, giving as a reason that “Boulez's musical sang-froid doesn't really work” for this work. Personally I loathe that recording, but Boulez’s DG recordings of the past quarter century are completely unrepresentative of his work in part because of the ghastly post-production that has been inflicted on them by DG’s engineers. His live performances including performances that I’ve heard both in person and on records and his CBS recordings are all of a piece. A majority of the later DG recordings are a vastly different experience. I’ve had the opportunity to hear recordings of the broadcasts of Mahler’s 2nd, 3rd, & 8th symphonies that immediately preceded the DG recording sessions for the same pieces, and the live performances are far more unbridled, far more distinctive, far more “Romantic,” and even far better recorded than the DG recordings because they’re simply digital recordings of digital broadcasts and not performances licked smooth and artificially polished to a high sheen in post production. Among the very most remarkable Boulez performances that have survived in recordings of live broadcasts are a 1974 recording of Mahler’s 2nd with the BBC SO and a 1974 recording of the 8th with the NY Phil, which is a great soaring thing, but there are many terrific live performances of Mahler symphonies with Boulez floating around as downloads. Throw away your DG Mahler recordings with Boulez: they’re not real Mahler and they’re not real Boulez.