'Pierre Boulez is Mr. Cool - I'm surprised this look didn't catch on. It works for me'.That email came from Sergio Mims. It is a fascinating link, but I have some bad news for Sergio. You will see from the credits that John Drummond directed that wonderful BBC footage. But this passage in Drummond's autobiography Tainted by Experience recounts how the Mr. Cool image did not work for Pierre.
'Boulez was about to begin rehearsing a new production of Alban Berg’s Wozzeck in Frankfurt, to be directed by Wieland Wagner. He asked me to join him there. For a few days I stayed in a preposterous former grand-ducal hunting lodge in the Taunus hills outside Frankfurt, and drove back and forth with Boulez to the daily rehearsals. I cannot claim that Wieland Wagner made a great impression. He was certainly a great director, but not demonstrative. Most of his conversations with the Wozzeck, Walter Berry, were tête à tête and inaudible.The cast includes:
I spent more time watching the Marie, Anja Silja – at that time Wagner’s mistress – who wore thigh-length suede boots, had a mane of tawny hair, and exuded the Germanic sexuality typified by Dietrich or Hildegard Neff. What was unforgettable was the clarity and precision of Boulez’s conducting, and his total control over the orchestra and singers. Wozzeck was the one work of the Second Viennese school that I knew well, and I already rated it above all other twentieth-century operas. But here I felt confronted by the reality of the piece.
Boulez was a delightful companion – easy to be with and full of catty quips, especially about the state of music in France and those who ran it – though I had initially been daunted by merely being with him. As I saw more of him, I was puzzled by the contradictions of his personality. He was totally accessible and charming, but gave a strong sense of intangibility. I knew nothing of his private life, and rather doubted that he had one. He seemed totally dedicated to music, and totally sure of what he wanted to do. Over the years he has mellowed considerably, becoming much warmer and more relaxed, but his sense of focus is still there, and no one I have ever met wastes less time. Every moment has to be grist to the musical mill.'
* Pierre Boulez - also known as The greatbogeyman of 20th century music.
* Wieland Wagner - who starred in The phantom of the opera.
* John Drummond - former controller of BBC Radio 3 and Proms who was described by Leonard Bernstein as a 'dreary old queen'.
* Sergio Mims does not identify himself further. But his email address suggests he could be the black American film critic and co-founder of the Black Harvest Film Festival of the same name. I do hope he is, as that would be a great way to launch Black History Month here - see comment below.
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