Friday, June 30, 2006

Boulez Strikes Back

I have danced around this, but I got a live off-the-air recording of Boulez doing a show of the Mahler 2nd with the Wiener Philharmoniker. It kept me sated, and gave me a lot of hope for this record.

I finally bought the Boulez Mahler 2nd on DG. Aside from a OOP BBC Proms recording from 1975 (I think) and the ORF aircheck, and any other bootlegs out there, this is it for Pierre in the Mahler 2nd. I'll start off like this and meander around a bit: Boulez is still Boulez. After recordings that are towering Mahler discs in their own right, like the 3rd with Von Otter, he is back to making records in his own style. It is correctly-played, elegant, and very precise. If you're into Boulez' Mahler, then there are revelatory moments at every rehearsal number. If you're not, save your money.

To my mind, after the reception of the Mahler 3rd he did with the Wiener Philharmoniker, this record strikes me as a response. That one had been praised universally as uncharacteristically un-Boulez and a solid reading among solid readings. This one has been panned for being too characteristically-Boulez and uninvolving. That isn't surprising, but it is odd. He has responded by reminding everyone that he is going to conduct precisely as he sees fit. As one imagines Leonard Bernstein gyrating around on the podium, deeply affected by Mahler's heavenly vision, one sort of imagines Pierre Boulez, slightly annoyed that the horns came in a tenth of a beat late. That sort of image gives one the best idea why he should either love or hate Boulez.

I loved it, but I can see why one would absolutely detest it.


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