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