Pierre Boulez, Boulez: Pli Selon Pli; and Livre pour Cordes

Seth Colter Walls

By Seth Colter Walls

on 06.20.11 in Reviews

Boulez: Pli Selon Pli; and Livre pour Cordes

Pierre Boulez
The punch you’re looking for

“Am I the only listener who finds Pli selon pli both pretty monotonous and monotonously pretty?” So asked Igor Stravinsky of his last interviewer, from the New York Review of Books, in 1971. The composer would have heard this version, completed in 1969 (and revised for a Deutsche Grammophone disc in 2002). And sure: Stravinsky is correct; it’s a long piece, and one dedicated to a certain clenched aesthetic. But this version is preferable for this very reason — particularly to those who find the composer’s late-’80s revision too pretty and not nearly monstrous enough. Halina Lukomsa’s soprano punches through the mix more so than in the latter recording (which features Christine Schafer), as do the amplified mandolin and guitar parts. Coupled with the occasionally hard-to-find “Livre pour cords,” this ’60s-era Boulez offering has hung in the catalog for good reason. If you don’t want Boulez’s late-period gracefulness, the punch you’re looking for can be found here.