music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Preparing for Boulez, Part 2

…and the layers start to fall away until you start to grasp some meaning, grace and beauty…

I wrote those words last night, as I was getting ready for our fourth rehearsal, which was this afternoon, and they came back to haunt me. Some passages were easier and I could feel a flow to them, but others remained shut tight, like locks that wouldn’t yield to any password, at least not any password I was able to provide. It seems that just as soon as you iron out difficulties in one section, another passage rears up. The changing time signatures, almost every bar, and the subdivisions delineated by those signatures are only part of the key, and the conductor underlines them clearly. Putting the correct notes in the right places, which many times are in odd groupings over the aforementioned time signatures are another part. Sometimes the physicality of the written notes, jumping from one register to another in wide leaps, makes you drag the time ever so slightly. Or sometimes not so slightly…as in, you were plain wrong.

The latest Boulez recording is an almost perfect, at least to my ears, performance. The recording quality and musical sensitivity are extraordinary. The guitarist, Marie-Therese Ghirardi, shades each note with such beautiful tone quality and individuality without ever wavering from the written part. I heard that Esa-Pekka Salonen was at a recent-ish performance where Boulez and his ensemble played the piece and was knocked out by the tightness of the group. He supposedly asked Boulez how many times they had performed it. One hundred and forty times, Boulez said. One hundred and forty times! We have nine rehearsals and one performance…

Back on Friday for number five…

January 10, 2006 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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