Widely honored for his long career as a conductor, Pierre Boulez is also the best known of the mid-20th century serialist composers, and thanks to his celebrity, his music has gained an equally long shelflife. This 2012 release on Naïve presents two short chamber works, Mémoriale for flute solo and eight instruments (1985) and Dérive I for six instruments (1984), along with the comparatively gargantuan Dérive II (1988, rev. 2001, 2006), which is for 11 instruments and occupies 50 minutes of this program. In spite of the recognition Boulez has received, his music has remained a stumbling block for many listeners, and his highly complex scores are still quite challenging, even for his admirers. The best place to start is with the first two works, which are absolutely rigorous in their organization and content, yet strangely appealing for their kaleidoscopic tone colors and interesting instrumental combinations, which make the ensemble seem somewhat larger in effect. Listening to Dérive II is a considerable investment of time and mental energy, so it is recommended for the most adventurous listeners. The performances by Daniel Kawka and the Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain are alert to rapid changes, meticulous in details, and clear in sonority, and even though there is no indication of Boulez's direct involvement in this recording, his long association with the artists lends the album considerable cachet.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
Dérive 2, for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, vibraphone, marimba, piano, harp, violin, viola & cello