Hilary Summers, Boulez: Le Marteau sans maitre; Derive 1 & 2

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 06.20.11 in Reviews

Boulez: Le Marteau sans maitre; Derive 1 & 2

Hilary Summers
Sealing his compositional reputation

The title translates to “The Hammer Without a Master” — and yet this is the piece of Boulez’s that, more than any other, has sealed his compositional reputation. Graduate students are still puzzling out its theoretical structure, but lay listeners can hear what distinguishes the work. The poetry chosen by the composer, from the pages of the surrealist-inspired René Char, fits neatly within Boulez’s whimsical soundworld — one populated by six instrumentalists who make up a bizarre chamber ensemble of viola, guitar, alto flute, vibraphone, xylorimba and percussion. (There is no player to carry anything like a baseline, contributing to the composition’s brittle quality.) The feeling of sonic-heft sensuality is therefore left to the single vocalist; on this recording, Hilary Summers evokes the proper mystery from the song-texts with a lushness of sound.