CONVERSATIONS WITH BOULEZ by Jean Vermeil

CONVERSATIONS WITH BOULEZ

Thoughts on Conducting

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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, Dvìrak 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.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-57467-007-7
Page count: 264pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1996




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