BBC Radio 3’s Music Matters, which aired last Saturday, on Pierre Boulez, who is ninety today, is here and here for another twenty-odd days at least. It’s hosted by Petroc Trelawney, despised as a broadcaster by a giant of musical blogging, Bob Shingleton, but not, perhaps, quite as bad as all that all the time. With him are Paul Driver, music critic of the Sunday Times, and Morag Grant, a Fellow of the Käte Hamburger Kolleg in Bonn, who are another matter.
This is discussion, and a mining of the warm and inscrutable Boulez’s words on the BBC over five decades. Why is the z pronounced in Boulez? Doesn’t it suggest something Spanish?
I wish Paul Driver wrote more outside Murdoch-land. He has only published one book, an unclassifiable assemblage of his own meditations on Manchester called Manchester Pieces. He’s a Mancunian, like the late Michael Kennedy.
Boulez’s list, aired in early 2000 on a New York radio station, of the ten most important pieces of music in the twentieth century is engaging.
I used to assume that his works were all short, like Webern’s. They aren’t. Then I thought that they were merely intellectual. They are, of course, not.
Boulez does walk into concert halls. He does dress formally. He does bow. He does conduct. He does accept applause.
I was taken in by the hoax in 2006 about Boulez’s recording of Vaughan Williams 4 and 6 on DG. For days, before I realised, the word “wow” was floating around in my head. There was even a review, which made it sound rather like Karajan’s recordings of English music. I can’t remember where the joke started. Driver, at least, can be as engaged with the Britten whom Boulez so much despises as with Boulez.