Pierre Boulez completed his Anthèmes 2 for solo violin in 1997. The work in includes an electronic realization that splits up the sound. In this way, it is comparable to the composer's own Dialogue de l'ombre double from 1985. The latter work is more immediate and perhaps more inventive. Both works double the soloist's sound by technological means so that the performer plays against himself as one's own accompanist. However, Dialogue de l'ombre double places all the work's live properties on the soloist, while Anthèmes 2 requires a second performer to handle the electronic rendering of the sound. The original Anthèmes from 1991 was a seven-minute violin piece without any accompaniment. In Anthèmes 2, a line from an earlier work by Boulez Explosante-fixe ... is developed in an alternate manner. It is in nine movements and slightly over twenty minutes in duration. This is perhaps the only published work by Boulez to feature a collaborator. Andrew Gerzso assisted the composer in realizing the work's electro-acoustic features. The electronic design of the 1997 piece was realized at the IRCAM-Centre Pompidou in Paris. President Pompidou founded an enormous, subterranean studio for musical research in 1970 and made Boulez its first director. For many years, he worked to develop its reputation as a sort of laboratory for new music composition and its performance. He later went on to other projects but still made his valuable presence felt, composing and lecturing there.
Anthèmes 2 is a graceful and elegant work, revealing the composer's innately urban and cool demeanor. The general form is one of episodes that continue only as long as is required in order to display another soundscape, dropping whatever has been set in motion once it has been established. It is free to wander throughout the possibilities that the electronic effects entail. There is no sense of a cathartic rounding up of all the preceding elements in order to create a final summation that is transcendent. Nonetheless, it is a valuable listen, truly beautiful and in no way manipulative. Though the work is clearly virtuosic, the cadenza-like moments do not generate a great deal of heat. One of the most easily recognized features of Boulez's output is its control. Like the work of Bach or Brahms, his music does not lose its composure or allow for the occasional outburst. It is music with an iron will, free of yearning. Unlike the music of Webern, which was Boulez's artistic point of departure from early on in his career, there is none of the genius' stereotypical dissatisfaction or angst. His exterior is seemingly impossible to ruffle, and in that way both the composer and his music are consummately French. With regard to influence and outlook, he is cosmopolitan, and his compositions themselves are unique, featuring a temperament that is as complex as it is artistically rewarding. Anthèmes 2 does not sound like the music of a man in his seventies; there is nothing retiring about it. In fact, there is no less energy in this work than there was in his works from the 1940s. The most notable difference between the youthful and the mature Boulez is a broadening of musical palette, which is bound to happen to any composer who is given to exploration. Like Webern, Boulez seems to have come begun his professional career with his talents already fully formed. This work furthers his legacy that has remained small but consistently excellent.