I seem to have a yearly habit of attending a concert that is a part of the annual Musikfest Berlin. This is a music festival that brings together modern and contemporary music, in addition to not-often-played classical works. In short, it is quite rare to find the usual suspects here. Last year I saw a performance of the SWR Baden-Baden and Freiburg Symphony Orchestra; this concert was memorable because it introduced me to Georg-Friedrich Haas with his composition entitled Limited Approximations, which is still my most favorite orchestral piece so far. Anyway, for this year, I have decided to attend a piano recital, performing all of the pieces for solo piano composed by Pierre Boulez. There is also a piece for two pianos. Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich were performing.
Now, I should say that I know nothing about Pierre Boulez. All I know is that he was a French composer, he was famous for conducting as well, he somehow had a connection with the New York Philharmonic, and that he died earlier this year. Aside from that, I know nothing about his compositions. I do know however that I have some acquaintances who hated his music.
Anyway, this recital was arranged chronologically, which meant that it opened with Boulez's Douze Notations. What can I say, these were 12 miniatures, quite fleeting as it was, and I cannot distinguish one from another. It seemed like there was a cat that walked all over the keyboard. Then followed three sonatas. I think I preferred the second sonata the most, as it was clearly something for a virtuoso pianist. The third sonata had aleatory influences in it, and I have to say, it was something that didn't really catch in memory. However, the toccata and virtuoso piece that followed, entitled Incises was definitely breath-taking. And yes, the Structures pour deux pianos, Deuxieme Livre was a sight to behold.
So I don't know what to think about Boulez. Some of his pieces give me a headache. But the others are quite remarkable. I definitely appreciate the commentary that the performers provided before every piece; as with modern art, it is hard to see why it is art, and not simply gibberish. There's typically a logic behind it, but it isn't always obvious, so the commentary breaks it in to the audience, who nevertheless are still left grasping for air.