If you were going to catch only one concert of the month-long Boulez@85 celebration that would tell you the most about the man who is being celebrated, this is the one to catch. We know Boulez is a great conductor, but hearing his own music in Chicago is still somewhat of a rarity compared to how much music we hear Boulez conduct of others. This is the only concert primarily devoted to works composed by Boulez himself.
Opening the program will be French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard performing “Notations,” an early adventurous piano work consisting of several movements which Boulez is in the process of re-imaging for orchestra. Aimard will be joined by his protégé Tamara Stefanovich for “Structures I” for two pianos, the first major piece that Boulez wrote that applied the serial principles of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern to all aspects of its composition: form, rhythm, register, dynamics, et al.
“Messagesquisse” for solo and six accompanying cellos was originally written for legendary Russian cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich, but as Boulez explains, “it was not ready on time so we missed being able to perform it together. He only did it once, and I was not there, but he wasn’t practicing much in his later years.” Chicago Symphony principal cellist John Sharp will take the lead with his colleagues from the CSO cello section.
Boulez has written a handful of major works incorporating the cutting-edge electronic music technology that had developed the Paris-based IRCAM—The Institute for Research of Coordination between Acoustics and Music—an institution which he founded and directed for fifteen years and with which he is still passionately involved. “Anthèmes 2” for solo violin and electronics features CSO violinist Nathan Cole as soloist and includes live sound design by IRCAM technicians and engineers where entire ripples of sound made up of digital transformations of conventional instrumental timbres made in real time engulf the listener from every direction.
Two world premieres commissioned by the CSO in honor of Boulez’ eighty-fifth birthday celebration by important young composers will round out the program: German composer Johannes Boris Borowski’s “Wandlung” and Japanese composer Dai Fujikura’s “Mirrors.” (Dennis Polkow)
January 24, Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, (312)294-3000, at 3pm.
Dennis Polkow is an award-winning veteran journalist, critic, author, broadcaster and educator. He made his stage debut at age five, was a child art prodigy and began playing keyboards in clubs at the age of fourteen. He holds degrees in music theory, composition, religious studies and philosophy from DePaul University in Chicago. Polkow spent his early years performing and recording in rock and jazz bands while concertizing as a classical pianist, organist and harpsichordist and composing, arranging and producing for other artists. As a scholar, Polkow has published and lectured extensively and taught at several colleges and universities in various departments. As an actor, narrator and consultant, Polkow has been involved with numerous films, plays, broadcasts and documentaries. As a journalist, Polkow helped co-create the experiential Chicago Musicale and Spotlight, the award-winning tabloid arts and entertainment section of the Press Publications chain of newspapers, which he later edited. He also created and ran the nationally recognized journalism program at Oakton College and was faculty advisor to its award-winning student newspaper; many former students went on to major media careers, including Channel Awesome’s the Nostalgia Critic. Polkow’s research, interviews, features, reviews and commentaries have appeared across national and international media and he has corresponded from the Middle East, Asia and Africa for the Chicago Tribune. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org