I hate Tchaikovsky

Henry Holland has left a new comment on A Faustian bargain:
I think it's unfair to say Pierre Boulez "refuses" to conduct Tchaikovsky, it's like he said in an interview once "I listen to Sibelius and Tchaikovsky for pleasure, but I have no desire to conduct it". I think we've all heard conductors do stuff that they have no interest in and it benefits no one. I simply wish Mr. Boulez had spent his years conducting MORE stuff, instead of staying pretty much with the same core of works + new music, often recording them 2 or 3 times.
Thanks Henry. I based my comment on the following section from Boulez - Composer, Conductor, Enigma by Joan Peyser (Schirmer ISBN 0028717007).
In 1975 Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto was played at Lincoln Center, when Boulez was away. "I am not a fascist," Boulez explains. "I hate Tchaikovsky and I will not conduct him. But if the audience wants him, it can have him".
Ms. Peyser's 'psychobiographies' are not always well received. But I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the quote. Perhaps maestro Boulez's views have mellowed with age? After all, we don't see him burning too many opera houses these days. Photo credit to the excellent French blog Le regard de James. I also used it in Hommage à Pierre Boulez. And, let's be clear, I am a fan.

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Pliable said…
On the other hand, Tchaikovsky is reputed to have called Brahms a "talentless bastard". Whether Tchaikovksy or Boulez, I suspect the old-fashioned composer jealousy at play.

David Cavlovic
Unknown said…
Boulez, at least in his younger years, was always a polemicist, and I think his stated opinions were often tailored to his political stance--as something of a new music practitioner and apologist myself, I've been guilty of it too. For example, I'm a pianist, but I will probably never perform Rachmaninov; I'll listen to it in concert, and I'm not (too) embarrassed to enjoy the 2nd concerto or the Etudes-Tableaux occasionally. But I certainly don't feel compelled to play it. Boulez has generally sided with the progressive over the conservative in any time period, which would explain his indulgence of Liszt.

I loved Peyser's book. I don't doubt that it's somewhat oversimplified but it's a powerful piece of writing, and one of the most important books on new music I've read. I do get the feeling Boulez has mellowed quite a bit... after all, he's conducting Pulcinella in New York next week. And he was supposedly one of the young protesters at Danses Concertantes..

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