Pierre Boulez is a genuine rarity, a conductor who holds his own as a respected composer. Here he conducts a trio of his own works, from his earliest-published composition, Notations
, to the version of ...explosante-fixe...
that he conducted at IRCAM in the early 1990s. The piano works reveal what Boulez treasures: extremity of contrast, bruised sonorities humming as constant color, and skewered virtuosity.
From Notations, things proceed to Structures pour deux pianos, where pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Florent Boffard dash into, across, beyond, above, and below each other in clustering runs and spare, telling jabs. The 36-minute ...explosante-fixe... is a celebration of accelerated and intensified sonic forestry. Sophie Cherrier's solo MIDI flute is electronically tampered with as a chamber orchestra and two additional flutes seek to ensnare, overwhelm, and surround Cherrier with unending swirls of sound. Energetic would be too flat a word to describe this display of volume and shifting soundscapes. Boulez advances electroacoustic composition here and shows himself a spectacular performing visionary in his leadership of the piece. --Andrew Bartlett