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Conversations with Boulez - Thoughts on Conducting (Hardcover) Hardcover – March 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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, Dv“rak 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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Amadeus Press (March 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574670077
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574670073
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,154,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
Both the Kirkus and other Amazon review are on the mark with this book. I read this book as a great admirer of the composer and conductor and welcome any further knowledge into his 'larger than life presence' as an artist. The book which is divided into chapters separated by various topics and developed as a Q &A format. Whereas other books on Boulez ("Orientations" or Lev Koblyakov's Analysis of Le Marteau) deal with pitch analysis (almost exclusively in the latter), this book REALLY gives you insight into the inner-workings of the former conductor of the New York Phil and LSO. You become privy to his sense of programming, which of the 'dead' composers work get programmed and why, why the predilection for French composers (berlioz and ravel). Following the interview chapters are a pretty comprehensive list of all of the programs Boulez had done through 1995. It is definitely geared toward those who want to know more about this amazing conductor. You don't need to have a huge music background to understand this book, albeit some of the 'name' references of particular scores may be a bit confusing for the non-musical layman (for ex. referring to the Dance of the Earth, some might not know this as the last movement of Part I of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring) These are minor points but shouldn't discourage possible readers. Thank you Camille Naish for getting it into English for the rest of us!
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Format: Hardcover
A man with a formidable intellect as Boulez can discuss musical topics especially the inner depths of orchestral sound like no one else, quite literally. If you happen to be conversant in French and German, as well as English, well there is no shortage of fascinating reflections on the great modernist works of this century: Debussy,Berg,Schoenberg,Varese,Webern,Berio. Boulez knows each with a ferocious intimacy. These interviews are quite old, 1986 .Mr.Vermeil visited Boulez at his state-like home outside Baden-Baden,long a refuge for Boulez from the late Fifties, although now he's a mandarin not a bohemian serialist, as he once arrived. Vermeil is good at tracing many categories, Chapter headings and parts I found fascinating were "Choosing Works", "Rehearsing", "On Gestures", "Colleagues". There's more but it seems Mr.Vermeil never gets down deep into the discourse of the subject. He stays on the surface which is all right with me. We need anything today discussed on modernist music, a dead,dying language yet institutionalized,all which makes historical sense. Well it has been Boulez who has kept it (music)alive, extending its implications, much like Habermas might find agreeable. I guess what I'm looking for is "Boulez in rehearsal" what he focuses upon, his pace, his structure of the rehearsal, what musical problems are attacked first, orchestral balance, tempi,quality of sonority. And we never get that with Vermeil firing the questions. In this English translation however it includes a reprint from a seminar in New York at Carnegie Hall in 1993 with the Cleveland Orchestra,by seasoned new music writer Paul Griffiths. Mr.Read more ›
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