Pierre Boulez

Varese: Arcana; Ameriques; Ionization; Offrandes; Density 21.5; Octandre; Integrales

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Pierre Boulez's insightful interpretations of Varèse's music were important additions to a once meager catalog of recordings. The 1977 release of Ionisation, Arcana, and Amériques came as a revelation and redressed the false impressions other wooden and inept performances had left of these pieces. Boulez's recordings have vivid details, room for the music to breathe, and disciplined organization in which nothing is obscured. Of the works performed by the New York Philharmonic, Arcana is transparent and brutally direct, and Amériques is rich and filled with foreboding. Ionisation is spacious and reverberant, with all of the rhythmic details placed in high relief. The 1984 recordings by the Ensemble InterContemporain continue Boulez's reassessment of Varèse's oeuvre. Octandre is played with a degree of playfulness rarely found in other performances. The marvelous sonorities of Offrandes are well-suited to the texts' surrealist imagery, and Rachel Yakar's singing is light and unpretentious. Intégrales, with its fanfares and crystalline chords clearly outlined, is austere and powerful. Flutist Lawrence Beauregard's performance of Density 21.5 is fine, though it is possibly the only track to offer no surprises. The disc's 20-bit enhancement improves the sound of the three ADD tracks, and the remaining all-digital recordings are free of blemishes.

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