From Publishers Weekly
Timing is everything. Twenty years ago, when Pierre Boulez, the preeminent French composer-conductor of his generation, was in the midst of his controversial tenure at the New York Philharmonic, this book would have been eagerly read. Now that he is again spending most of his time at the podium or in the recording studio, mostly with the Chicago Symphony?and showing ever greater interpretive powers?his latest thoughts might have been eagerly sought out. Unfortunately, however, this book doesn't contain his latest thoughts. Originally published in France, this is a series of Q&A interviews conducted in 1988, a time when Boulez had virtually abandoned conducting. His views on the conductor's role, on the importance of keeping musical culture alive (most contemporary conductors, he complains, have little culture and almost no curiosity) and on his own remarkable batonless technique are always worth reading. But the book lacks urgency, partly because it reads like the thoughts of a man who has stopped working when, since these interviews were conducted, Boulez has stepped back onto the stage. It has, however, been updated with an exhaustive (but superfluous) listing of Boulez's public performances to the end of 1995, and a CD discography whose chief lack is any mention of the orchestras involved. Illustrated.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
These conversations about the art of conducting between Vermeil, a French journalist, and Boulez demonstrate that the fanatic conductor and composer (now 70) hasn't mellowed: He remains an aggressive, ungenerous partisan with a bitchy wit. But they also demonstrate why he is one of the two or three greatest conductors of the second half of the century. The talks, which took place in 1988 and are presented in an excellent translation, do not form an autobiography: There are few recollections of composers or performers, and very little about Boulez's life when he's not on a podium. Instead, this is, as the subtitle suggests, a guide to the profession of conducting, and Boulez's advice, ranging from the selection of repertoire to the mastery of gestures, from handling rehearsals to dealing with audiences, is brilliant. Boulez sounds too relentless, however, and too humorless to be very good company. He remains an intensely private man, without a glittering array of styles or sins, fiercely holding to professional competence as his ideal, and dedicated to the total domination of music by such modern composers as Webern, Berg, and Stravinsky. He finds Verdi and Tchaikovsky, Dvrak and Puccini unfit for his programs. Boulez reiterates here that he wants them out of the repertoire to make room for music many find barren, boring, and arrogant. The volume also includes an appreciation of Boulez by Paul Griffiths, a conductor and a former pupil of the master, and a complete discography. These conversations give insight into why Boulez's conducting is at a genius level: He has an unparalleled grasp of the scores, a fiercely intelligent command over the orchestra, and is able as a result to create concerts and recordings that seem nothing short of marvels. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.