Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ezy & Isaac - 1974 - Soul Rock

Ezy & Isaac 
Soul Rock

01. Take Off !!! 5:10
02. Not All Bad - Not All Good 2:57
03. Sad To See You Go Away 4:10
04. Bawagbe 3:08
05. Don't Step On My Shoes 5:10
06. Bad Day 3:05
07. All We Need Is Love 3:00
08. Got To Move 3:05

Ezy Hart
Isaac Olashugba

This Incredible Afro Soul album was recorded in Italy in 1974 by the two Nigerians Ezy Hart and Isaac Olashugba.

Ezy is known for his vocals while Isaac for playing the saxophone. They are ex-members of Fela Kuti’s Hi – Life jazz band, The Koola Lobitos and The Don Ezekiel Combination. After doing amazing collaborations together, recording a few Christian Funk albums, and touring all over West Africa, these two finally settled in Italy were, after almost two decades, they not only toured through Italy, but also through Switzerland and Monte Carlo.

The Funky Fella, a group of 12 top Italian musicians such as Maestro Leoni from Rifi records, produced three albums with Ezy and Isaac. The first one is called “Soul Rock “ and it`s considered a soul masterpiece.

It contains the bomb track called BAWAGBE. This track is very tuff, hypnotic afro-soul-groove with Yoruba chants ruff, smacking congas, afro horns, funky breaks and a wicked percussion breakdown of rattling cowbells. It`s a very unique collectors` item for the Afro Funk lovers.

“Soul Rock“ is considered gold-dust, it`s the Holy Grail of the Afro Italian funk.

It`s a MUST HAVE in your Afro Soul collection!

Ebo Taylor - 1976 - My Love And Music

Ebo Taylor 
My Love And Music

01. Odofo Nyi Akyiri Biara
02. Will You Promise
03. Maye Omama
04. My Love And Music

Arranged By, Composed By, Guitar, Lead Vocals, Written-By – Ebo Taylor

Ghanian producer, arranger, band-leader and guitarist Ebo Taylor has been something of a catalyst for Ghana's music scene in a similar fashion to Nigeria's Fela Kuti, minus the hero worship of like-minded music curators, journos and historians.

My Love and Music is Taylor's 1976 debut album and is the focus of this timely Mr Bongo repress, some 40 years after the original. To herald this album as anything less than joyous would be churlish - it is simply wonderful.

With all the influences of Afrique-pop, calypso, ska and the early throes of funk, My Love and Music cannot and doesn't fail. Most might avoid the lengthiest tracks (you only have four to choose from) but the title track is soporific, heady and warm like a basement jam, while the epic Odofo Nnyi Ekyir Biara is like a crazed voodooed Afrobeat carnival hoedown that doesn't let up for nigh-on a quarter of an hour. It's an epiphany of Latin American and African styles delivered with some fist-heavy organ and glorious harmonies that frankly shame what comes out of expensive studios nowadays.

Ebo Taylor is currently in his '80s having issued a few recent recordings via the coveted Strut stable - check his faultless Appia Kwa Bridge set from 2012 - but deserves to be recognized as much as any other Realworld or Sterns artists of recent years. With My Love and Music and its attendant frivolities, you seriously won't find a better party-orientated vinyl reissue this year.

Really nice review of his albums here

Easy Kabaka Brown - 1976 - Opotopo

Easy Kabaka Brown

01. Agboho
02. Kele Chi Gi
03. Belema
04. Onbumi
05. Ibi Dyna

The LP was originally released and recorded by Philips / Phonogram in 1976 and only sold in very small numbers. Musically it's a intriguing mix of mostly Nigerian highlife with a bit of afro-jazz sung in the language of Kalabari from the Delta region of Southern Nigeria.  From the bouncy good times of Belema to the deeper extended afro workout of Agboho this unique album stands out from thousands of others of it's time with a sound of its own that draws on many influences, with Congolese and latin touches to jazz trumpet and psychedelic organ lines.

Easy Kabaka Brown (Opotopo was his nickname) was a versatile and eccentric musician who recorded two full length albums (this is the first) and only a couple of 45s. We at Soundway have deemed this record way too sweet to be forgotten, only to gradually ebb away and disappear with time. It's a record that will give you a golden, warm feeling. Your toes will tap, your face should smile and it certainly deserves to be heard by far more than only the few hundred people who bought it nearly 40 years ago.

Any extra info would be surely appreciated!

De Frank & His Professionals - 1976 - Psychedelic Man

De Frank & His Professionals
Psychedelic Man

01. I Don't Know The World Is One
02. Think Of The Future
03. Psychedelic Man
04. Let's Make The Music
05. Call Me Frank
06. Waiting For My Baby
07. Man No Cry

Recorded At – Ghana Films Corporation Studios
Made By – Ambassador Records Manufacturing Co. [A.R.M.C.]
Printed By – Akan Press Ltd.

Arranged By, Composed By, Leader, Lead Vocals, Written-By – De Frank Kakra
Backing Band – Vis A Vis
Issac 'Superstar' Yeboah - Bass, Leader
Sammy Copper - Lead Guitar
Kung-Fu Kwaku - Drums

Yet another highly sought-after gem from Ghanaian funketeer - De Frank.  Much like other renown West African funk artists - Ambolley, Geraldo Pino, Harry Masco - De Frank’s catalogue affirms his admiration for American funk and soul.  On “psychedelic Man” he  goes all in and does away with most of the highlife and other Ghanaian rhythms found on some of his other recordings - one which we featured a while back - and replaces it with english-induced afro-soul and the occasional reggae number.

Most often, the record is noted for the track “Call Me frank,” but the real standout is the song right after. “Waiting for My Baby” embodies everything I love about Afro-funk:  moody organ chords, dirty horn lines, and a driving pulse, all accented by De frank’s signature high-pitched vocals. De frank allows the band to breath over the instrumental, adding little more than the title name as a chorus, with the occasional added line, which he sings just long enough to give the listener a break before ushering back the horns.

This track is beautiful in every way and yet another testament to De Frank’s gifted musical ability. Check it out!

Aktion - 1977 - Celebration


01. Celebration
02. Let's Be Free
03. Miss Selfishness
04. Groove The Funk
05. Centepede
06. Love
07. We're Laughing

Bass Guitar – Renny Pearl
Congas – Frank Abayomi
Drums – Geoffrey Omodehbo
Guitar – Jimi Lee
Percussion – Lemmy Faith Nwani
Synthesizer, Organ, Piano – Zeeky George
Vocals – Essien Akpabio

Previously the Action 13, this is the bands second LP for Clover Records whose blend of rock and funk was popular in eastern Nigeria
Ridiculously, ludicrously sick Afro funk psych fuzz heavyweight! It's like if Hendrix was in the Stooges with Bernie Worrell! Literally every track is a shredder, with some over the top fuzz guitar wailing, wicked synths, rippin' bass and fatback drums.

Aktion - 1975 - Groove The Funk

Groove The Funk

01. Groove The Funk
02. Sugar Daddy
03. I Don't Have To Cry
04. My Baby
05. I've Got To Hope For Tomorrow
06. Masqurade
07. I'm In Love
08. Tell Me Baby
09. Play With Me

Lemmy Faith Nwani
Essien Akpabio
Renny Pearl Nwosa
Zeaky M. George
Geoffrey Omodehbo
Frank Abayomi

Guest, Drums – Ben Alaka
Producer – Ben Okonkwo

Groove The Funk’ is an essential and influential early Afro-funk LP. The album was originally released in 1975 by the Clover Recording Organization from Aba, Nigeria. The music is top notch Afrobeat mixed with amazing funk-psych grooves, featuring lots of fuzz guitar and bad-ass keyboard playing. This album certainly is a fine exponent of the Nigerian scene! ….
'Groove The Funk’ is one of the most influential early Afro-Funk LPs from 1975. The album was released in Nigeria and carries a unique style of fuzz guitar and keyboard with ecstasy rhythms that can be experienced only from the heart of Africa. It’s afro-beat in its best form mixed with killer psych grooves…….

The mighty Aktion dropped “Groove The Funk” in 1975, laying down the foundations for the wealth of Afro-funk which followed. Driven ecstatically through the heart of the dance by the incredible rhythms of master percussionist Ben Alaka, “Groove The Funk” is alive with fuzz guitar and searing organ, laying waste to its imitators with the full force of psychedelic funk. The group, also known as The Action 13 or The Actions were founded in Warri and quickly took the country by storm with a string of incendiary live performances at college campuses and the infamous Lido Night Club, going on to release their debut LP on Clover Recording Organization, home to (Super)Wings, Akwassa, Mary Afi Usuah, Folk 77, The Apostles and Mansion. An exciting introduction to one of the most explosive African scenes of the 70s, “Groove the Funk” is fuses the finest Afrobeat with amazing funky-psych grooves. If you love your fuzz guitar and bad-ass keyboard playing, then this is the one for you. ……

Reissue of an essential and influential early Afro-funk album. Lot’s of fuzz guitar and bad-ass keyboard playing. Certainly a great look into Nigerian scene. ….

Raduly Mihaly - 2001 - Napkelte alkonyatkor (1972-1973)

Raduly Mihaly 
Napkelte alkonyatkor (1972-1973)

01. Napkelte alkonyatkor 10:48
02. Az árnyékok kinyúlanak 7:36
03. Kis nyúrga füst virágzik Hold elott 5:27
04. A pillanatok zörögve elvonulnak 7:46
05. Szerelem, szerelem? 7:03
06. Szomorú vasárnap 11:58
07. Eljön a Mennyek Országa (J. S. Bach, BWV 659) 4:58

Babos Gyula: guitar, remastering
Kathy Horváth Lajos: violin
Jávori Vilmos: drum
Koszegi Imre: drums
Orszáczky Miklós: bass guitar
Ráduly Mihály:soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute, piano, composer
Szakcsi Lakatos Béla: piano, fender rhodes electric piano
Sándor Vajda: double bass

Hungarian radio studio recordings from 1972/73, released 2001. Saxophonist and flutist Mihaly Raduly won a price for best soloist in Montreux Jazz Festival 1970 and is most famous for playing with Aladar Pege, Syrius, Rakfogo. But this is not „just another session on well known stuff“, instead thoughtful compositions that aren't comparable with the parallel Syrius or Rakfogo output. It's overtly jazz fusion with a few snippets of world music woven in and sometimes knocking at the door to free jazz for better expression.

Sandor Vajda (bass / György Szabados, Benko Dixieland Band), Bela Szakesi Lakotas (keyboard / Aladar Pege, Saturnus), Jackie Orszaczky (bass / Syrius), Vilmos Javori (bass / Aladar Pege, Szabados, Rakfogo), Imre Köszegi (drums / Szabados, Csik Trio, Saturnus), Lajos Hrorvarth (violin / Szabados, Yochk'o Seffer's Neffish Music) took part in this recordings.

Listeners could be surprised by the first track starting with a gamelan intro flowing into the „alien welcome melody“ of Spielberg's science fiction movie „Close Encounters of the third kind“, five years before that movie. Message or incident? The Solresol music language was invented by Francois Sudre around 1917. For the movie a polished Solresol version of hungarian componist Zoltan Kodaly, a friend of Bela Bartok, was used. Are there more Solresol messages hidden in Raduly's compositions?

The recordings stay eclectic, for example an emotional interpretation based on Rezsö Seress melancolic piano piece „Gloomy Sunday“, that has a reputation for being allegedly responsible for many suicides. Raduly manages to transform the nucleus of the expression of desperation in powerful liberated jazz. Raduly let's the recording end playing the classical piano piece of J.S. Bach „Nun komm der Heiden Heiland“ (BWV 659) in a contemplative and thoughtful manner. I wish Raduly would release more of this interesting radio recordings

Steve Marcus - 1969 - The Lord's Prayer

Steve Marcus 
The Lord's Prayer

01. Hey Jude (Part 1&2) 8:23
02. Amy 7:57
03. Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues 1:02
04. T. With Strings 2:06
05. Wild Thing 2:23
06. Hope 10:45
07. America 0:35
08. The Lord's Prayer 4:42

Bass – Ed Xiques, Miroslav Vitous
Drums – Bob Moses
Drums, vocals – Larry Clark
Piano, Electric Piano – Herbie Hancock
enor Saxophone – Tom Zimmermann
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone, Guitar – Steve Marcus
Trombone – Dave Gale (tracks: A1)
Trumpet – Jack Gale (tracks: A1)

Producer – Herbie Mann

Hey Jude, Amy, T. With Strings & Hope were recorded at Apostolic Recording Studios, New York.
All other selections in this album were recorded at Atlantic Recording Studios, New York.

Steve Marcus, 66, Saxophonist Who Blended Jazz and Rock, Dies

Steve Marcus, a jazz saxophonist who was an early exponent of the style that came to be known as fusion, died on Sunday at his home in New Hope, Pa. He was 66.

His death was announced by his family, which did not specify the cause.

A graduate of the Berklee School of Music in Boston, Mr. Marcus, who played tenor and soprano saxophones, had worked with Stan Kenton, Woody Herman and Herbie Mann by the time he recorded his first album as a leader in 1968. "Tomorrow Never Knows," produced by Mann, was not the typical journeyman jazzman's maiden effort.

With a supporting cast that included the rock-influenced electric guitarist Larry Coryell and a repertory that included the Byrds' hit "Eight Miles High" and the Beatles song that gave the album its title, it was one of the first attempts by a jazz musician to find common ground with the growing phenomenon of psychedelic rock. It was dismissed by some as a sellout but applauded by others as an adventurous blend of the new rock and the avant-garde jazz of John Coltrane. Two albums in a similar vein, "Count's Rock Band" and "The Lord's Prayer," also produced by Mann, followed in 1969.

Mr. Marcus's synthesis of jazz and rock anticipated a movement, eventually christened fusion, that would come to be identified with Miles Davis and other well-known names. But he himself had limited success as a bandleader. In 1975, after two short-lived attempts at leading his own group, he returned to straight-ahead jazz and joined the big band led by the drummer Buddy Rich.

He was a featured soloist until Rich died in 1987, and he remained identified with Rich for the rest of his life -- briefly as the musical director of a memorial big band and in recent years as a member of Buddy's Buddies, a quintet led by the drummer Steve Smith that plays Rich's music.

Steve Marcus - 1969 - Count's Rock Band

Steve Marcus 
Count's Rock Band

01. Theresa's Blues 12:19
02. Scarborough Fair 2:39
03. Drum Solo 0:35
04. Ooh Baby 12:14
05. C'est Ca 0:19
06. Back Street Girl 5:46
07. Piano Solo 0:51

Accordion – Dominic Cortese
Bass, Guitar [Rhythm] – Chris Hills
Drums – Bob Moses
Guitar – Larry Coryell
Piano, Harpsichord – Mike Nock
Saxophone, Saxophone [Electric] – Steve Marcus

Producer – Herbie Mann

Theresa's Blues is a hell of a track. Larry Coryell's going completely nuts in the middle section, but Steve pulls a giant hidden ace from his sleeve by spending the last few minutes with the band running his sax through way, way too much overdrive, causing it to feedback. LOUDLY. For a considerable length of time. It's damn near Borbetomagus-y.

Ooh Baby is less amazing but still very good. The rest is a bit inconsequential and/or friendly. Still, twenty four and a half minutes of awesome on a thirty four and a half minute long album is pretty damn solid.

Steve Marcus - 1968 - Tomorrow Never Knows

Steve Marcus 
Tomorrow Never Knows

01. Eight Miles High 4:44
02. Mellow Yellow 4:50
03. Listen People 2:25
04. Rain 7:02
05. Tomorrow Never Knows 11:07
06. Half A Heart 5:21

Bass [Uncredited] – Chris Hills
Drums [Uncredited] – Bob Moses
Guitar [Uncredited] – Larry Coryell
Piano [Uncredited] – Mike Nock
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone, Leader – Steve Marcus

Producer – Herbie Mann

Tenor saxophonist Steve "The Count" Marcus was a pioneering force behind the emergence of what would eventually become known as fusion. Born in New York City on September 18, 1939, Marcus initially desired to play guitar, but when he couldn't find a teacher, he adopted the clarinet instead and finally moved to saxophone at age 15. He was a student at the Berklee School of Music in 1962 when Stan Kenton came to Boston for a gig. When Kenton's tenor saxophonist, Charlie Mariano, skipped rehearsal to visit his family, Marcus sat in and six weeks later was given the gig full time. Kenton dissolved the band in late 1963 and from there Marcus worked with Woody Herman and Gary Burton, additionally fronting his own bands. In 1966 Marcus teamed Herbie Mann at the beginning of the flautist's experiments with rock rhythms and ethnic music. A year later, he partnered with guitarist Larry Coryell in the Count's Rock Band and cut the 1968 Mann-produced, jazz-rock landmark Tomorrow Never Knows. Deemed a sellout in many quarters upon its release, the record is today a cult classic that represents one of the first and most successful marriages of jazz and psychedelia. In 1969, Marcus and Coryell reunited in Foreplay, a precursor to their subsequent fusion project Eleventh House, and in 1970 Marcus toured Japan with the experimental guitarist Sonny Sharrock. He joined the Buddy Rich Big Band in 1975, and served alongside Rich until the drummer's 1987 death. At Marcus' urging, Rich embraced rock and electronics, a progression that helped the group remain relevant at a time when most big bands were forced to dissolve. After Rich's death, Marcus took the reins of the band, and in 1999, teamed with fellow alumni to record the LP Buddy's Buddies. The following year, he and Coryell joined yet again, this time as the Count's Jam Band. Marcus died in New Hope, Pennsylvania on September 25, 2005.

Though Miles Davis introduced a fine-tuned version of fusion to the world with Bitches Brew, he was by no means its primary architect. The concept of a union between jazz and rock musics had been knocked around for several years prior to Brew’s release by such jazz musicians as Gary Burton, Larry Coryell, Jerry Hahn, and Charles Lloyd, as well as rock acts like Soft Machine. Sadly, many of their recordings have become lost with both the passage of time and an anti-fusion fervor fueled by the likes of the Marsalis camp; only recently has this fervor calmed enough for the music of this era to be properly reevaluated. The Water label is helping out immensely in this regard by reissuing such albums as Tomorrow Never Knows and others originally released by the Vortex label. Herbie Mann, one of the oft-overlooked godfathers of this early fusion scene, founded the label; in addition to employing scenesters Miroslav Vitous and Sonny Sharrock in his own group, Mann used his stature with Atlantic to form this subsidiary label (as well as its successor Embryo).

Steve Marcus is primarily known for his extensive reed work with Coryell during his electric years; Tomorrow actually marks their first recording together. Having used Marcus’ reed talents for his groundbreaking country/jazz album Tennessee Firebird, Gary Burton cemented a friendship with him, eventually introducing him to Coryell (a member of his own quartet at the time), pianist Mike Nock, bassist Chris Hills and drummer Bob Moses. Together they formed the ensemble Count’s Rock Band and recorded Tomorrow as their first album. Burton has a subtle hand in the recording, acting as a non-credited producer, leaving his vibes at home and limiting himself to tambourine (??) for the session.

Marcus decided to use popular rock songs of the day as material, using them as most jazz groups use Tin Pan Alley standards. Thus “Eight Miles High” starts familiarly, with Marcus’ tenor playing the vocal line of the song until a premature tense blurt from his horn lets it be known that things are not going to stay safe for long. The Byrds anthem soon melds into late period Coltrane territory with Marcus’ horn stretching further and further out with each breath. The track turns into a tug of war between the rhythm section playing it straight and Marcus and Coryell stretching into outer realms of sound. Coryell plays guitar like a member of the Count Five, throwing all jazz rules out the window with ecstatic joy whilst thrashing about in utter abandon. Unfortunately, things fall back into normalcy once again until a slowly petered-out ending gives way to a typical rave-up ending.

Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow” begins as a note for note cover until Nock’s piano enters with the abandon of prime Cecil Taylor, while Coryell backs him with heaps of atonal note picking that would cause Derek Bailey to sweat. Marcus soon joins the foray by overdubbing a raucous horn part, supplementing the screech whilst the original straight cover plays ad nauseum. What ensues is akin to a surreal collaboration between a Hilton jazz lounge act and the Spontaneous Music Ensemble – truly breathtaking. Such a whirlwind of intensity is confusingly followed by a forgettable version of Herman’s Hermits “Listen People”, pure throwaway fluff, the kind of jazz you’d hear in romantic movies of the period and very out of place on the album.

The two Beatles tracks that make up the bulk of the album, “Rain” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” fail to work, as they never seem to exceed their bounds. Nock provides some vivid Tyner-like moments and Coryell’s proto-punk thrashing burns, but as an ensemble they stop short of taking the tunes to a higher plane of improvisational inventiveness, as they did remarkably well with the opening tracks. Then again, maybe too many bad instrumental Beatles elevator music moments have ruined it for me; I cannot help but feel that hearing these versions in 1967 would give them more merit.

The true revelation of Tomorrow lies in the early documentation of Coryell’s electric guitar work, never before or since has he sounded so intensely chaotic. Throughout the album Coryell refuses to use blues or jazz idioms, indeed the closest frame of reference would be Lou Reed’s playing on White Light/White Heat. Nock’s piano is also noteworthy as it provides so many of the album’s high points, the closer “Half A Heart” (the only original track penned by an uncredited Coryell) would fall apart without Nock’s unique electric keyboard touches.

Tomorrow Never Knows is a fine example of early fusion and the learning process it entailed. It is definitely a product of the ’60s, though its occasional moments of brilliance allow it to stand the test of time.

Ovary Lodge - 1976 - Ovary Lodge

Ovary Lodge 
Ovary Lodge

01. Gentle One Says Hello 14:00
02. Fragment No. 6 8:45
03. A Man Carrying A Drop Of Water On A Leaf Through A Thunderstorm 5:10
04. Communal Travel 17:40

Bass – Harry Miller
Percussion, Voice, Flute [Hsiao], Sheng – Frank Perry
Piano, Harmonium, Recorder, Voice, Maracas – Keith Tippett
Voice, Recorder [Sopranino], Erhu – Julie Tippetts

"All the music on this album is improvised. The sounds are acoustic and no electronics are involved."
Live recording at Nettlefold Hall, London SE27, 6 August 1975.

Ovary Lodge - 1973 - Ovary Lodge

Ovary Lodge
Ovary Lodge

01. First Born
 Mountain Temple Spring
02. Part 1: Amethyst, Gold And Royal Blue (My Way Of Saying Thank You)
03. Part 2: A Frail White Butterfly, Beneath The Spell Of Moon Is Sleeping On The Huge Bronze Bell (Buson)
04. Tropic Of Capricorn
05. Come On In
06. Nursery Rhyme
07. Sylphs In Pisces

 Composed By – Perry (tracks: 1 - 3, 7), Tippett (tracks: 1, 3, 5- 7), Babbington (tracks: 1, 5, 7)

Piano – Keith Tippett (tracks: 1, 3, 5 - 7)
Bass – Roy Babbington (tracks: 1, 5, 7)
Percussion – Frank Perry (tracks: 1 - 3, 7)

Producer – Robert Fripp

Here is the first of the two Ovary Lodge records released, This was out on RCA in 1973 and rereleased on cd in 1999. I have the lp, but comparing it to the cd version, I would have to conclude that the background noise and pops/clicks are a little less noticeable on this version. One can hear that it is sourced from an lp, particularly in the quiet passages, of which there are many, indicating that the master tapes may have got lost in the mentime. The second Ovary Lodge came out on Ogun a few years later with Harry Miller replacing Roy Babbington and adding Julie Tippetts. That one is fairly easy to get  on cd, though the initial lp release is out of print. But as I understand, even the cd release of the first one may be hard to find.

This first one came two years after Tippett's mammoth Centipede ensemble with 50 plus players and one year after Tippett went to the other extreme with the closeted, chamber-like Blueprint with roughly the same small group of musicians featured here and Ovary Lodge is very much a follow-up to Blueprint. This new one was fully improvised, as Tppett informed us, and all acoustic with no electronics, as producer Robert Fripp added.

Reading some reviews, it seems quite apparent that for critics coming out of the jazz-prog-fusion intersection, this one was outside the comfort zone, especially for those who associated Tippett with his contribution to King Crimson records (with producer Robert Fripp being the obvious link). What we get here are two trio pieces at the beginning and end. In between there are a couple of piano solos and several pieces exploring space and silence, getting into some very quiet and intimate dynamics, even sounding vaguely meditative at points. This record, the Mutant Souds blog informs us, made the NWW (Nurse With Wound) list, a list which has been a sort of holy grail of obscure gems. The fellow at Allmusic finds this record to be challenging and one supposes, rewarding. Yes, I would think so, too.

Pierre Boulez - 2013 - The Complete Works

Pierre Boulez 
The Complete Works

101. 01. Fantasque - Modéré
102. 02. Très vif
103. 03. Assez lent
104. 04. Rythmique
105. 05. Doux et improvisé
106. 06. Rapide
107. 07. Hiératique
108. 08. Modéré jusqu'à très vif
109. 09. Lointain - Calme
110. 10. Mécanique er très sec
111. 11. Scintillant
112. 12. Lent - Puissant et âpre
Pierre-Laurent Aimar
113. Sonatine For Flute And Piano 
Sophie Cherrier, Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Piano Sonata No.1
114. 01. Lent - Beaucoup plus allant
115. 02. Assez large - Rapide
Pierre-Laurent Aimard
Le Visage Nuptial, 3è Version
116. Conduite
Le Visage Nuptial, 3è Version
117. Gravité (L'emmuré)
Le Visage Nuptial, 3è Version
118. Le Visage Nuptial
Le Visage Nuptial, 3è Version
119. Evadné
Le Visage Nuptial, 3è Version
120. Post-Scriptum
Pierre Boulez, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers, Phyllis Bryn-Julson, Elizabeth Laurence

Piano Sonata No.2
201. 01. Extrèmement rapide
202. 02. Lent
203. 03. Modéré, presque vif
204. 04. Vif
Maurizio Pollini
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
205. I a
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
206. I b
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
207. II
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
208. III a
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
209. III b
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
210. III c
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
211. V
Livre pour quatuor, version 1962
212. VI
Quatuor Parisii

Structures, Livre 1 Pour 2 Pianos
301. 1.
Structures, Livre 1 Pour 2 Pianos
302. 2.
Structures, Livre 1 Pour 2 Pianos
303. 3.
Aloys Kontarsky, Alfons Kontarsky
Le Soleil des eaux, 4è version
304. Complainte du lézard amoureux
Le Soleil des eaux, 4è version
305. La Sorgue (Chanson pour Yvonne)
Pierre Boulez, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers, Phyllis Bryn-Julson
Le Marteau sans Maître
306. Avant "l'Artisanat furieux"
307. Commentaire I de "Bourreaux de solitude"
308. "L'Artisanat furieux"
309. Commentaire II de "Bourreaux de solitude"
310. "Bel édifice et les pressentiments" version première
311. "Bourreaux de solitude"
312. Après "L'Artisanat furieux"
313. Commentaire III de "Bourreaux de solitude"
314. "Bel édifice et les pressentiments", double
Hilary Summers, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez

Pli selon Pli (1957-62/84/89) Portrait de Mallarmé
401. No. 1 Don (version nouvelle 1989) [Je t'apporte l'enfant d'une nuit d'Idumée"
402. No. 2 Improvisation I sur Mallarmé (1958/62) le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd'hui
403. No. 3 Improvisation II sur Mallarmé (1957) une dentelle s'abolit
404. No. 4 Improvisation III sur Mallarmé (1959/84) à la nue accablante tu
405. No. 5 Tombeau (1959-62) ["une peu profond ruisseau calomnié la mort"]
Christine Schäfer, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez

Piano Sonata No.3
Formant 2 - Trope
501. Parenthèse
502. Glose
503. Commentaire
504. Texte
Formant 3 - Miroir
505. Mélange
506. Points 3
507. Blocs II
508. Points 2
509. Blocs I
510. Points 1
Paavali Jumppanen
Structures pour deux pianos - Livre II
511. Chapitre I
512. Chapitre II (Pièces 1-2, Encarts 1-4, Textes 1-6)
Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Florent Boffard
513. Figures, Doubles, Prismes, 2ème version 1968 
Pierre Boulez, BBC Symphony Orchestra

Eclat - Multiples
601. Eclat, pour quinze instruments
Eclat - Multiples
602. Multiples, pour vingt-cinq instruments (inachevé)
Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain
603. Domaines 
Alain Damiens
Domaines pour clarinette et groupes instrumentaux
604. Première partie
Domaines pour clarinette et groupes instrumentaux
605. Deuxième partie
Diego Masson, Musique Vivante, Michel Portal
606. Improvisé - Pour le Dr Kalmus 
Emmanuelle Ophele, Alain Billard, Sébastien Vichard, Odile Auboin, Eric Maria Couturier

701. Cummings ist der Dichter, 2è version 1986 
Pierre Boulez, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers
702. Livre pour cordes
Pierre Boulez, Orchestre Philharmonique De Vienne
703. Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna 
Pierre Boulez, BBC Symphony Orchestra
Messagequisse (1976/77) pour violoncelle solo et six violoncelles
704. Très lent - ciff.1
705. Très rapide - ciff.4
706. Sans tempo libre - ciff.8
707. Aussi rapide que possible - ciff.10
Jean-Guihen Queyras, Ensemble De Violoncelles De Paris, Pierre Boulez
708. 1. Fantasque - Modéré
709. 7. Hiératique
710. 4. Rythmique
711. 3. Très modéré
712. 2. Très vif
Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Modern Orchestra
713. Memoriale ( explosante fixe . Originel) 
Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Sophie Cherrier

801. ... explosante-fixe ...
Sophie Cherrier, Emmanuelle Ophele, Pierre Andre Valade, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez
802. Anthèmes I 
Jeanne-Marie Conquer
Anthèmes 2 (1997) pour violon et dispositif électronique
803. Lent - /I Libre
804. 1. Très lent - I/II Libre
805. 2. Rapide, dynamique - II/III Libre
806. 3. Lent - III/IV Libre
807. 4. Agité - IV/V Libre
808. 5. Trés lent - V/VI Libre
809. VI-1 Allant
810. VI-2 Calme, régulier
811. VI-3 Calme
Hae-Sun Kang, Andrew Gerzso

Répons (1981 - 1984)
901. Introduction
Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez
902. Section 1
903. Section 2
904. Section 3
Andrew Gerzso, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez
905. Section 4
Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez, Andrew Gerzso
906. Section 5
Andrew Gerzso, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez
907. Section 6
Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez, Andrew Gerzso
908. Section 7
909. Section 8
910. Coda
Andrew Gerzso, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez
Dialogue de l'ombre double (1985)
911. Sigle initial
912. Strophe I
913. Transition I à II
914. Strophe II
915. Transition II à III
916. Strophe III
917. Transition III à IV
918. Strophe IV
919. Transition IV à V
920. Strophe V
921. Transition V à VI
922. Strophe VI
923. Sigle final
Alain Damiens, Andrew Gerzso

1001. Dérive 1
Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez
1002. Dérive 2 
Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain

1101. Incises 
Dimitri Vassilakis
Sur Incises (1996/1998) pour trois pianos, trois harp, trois percussion-claviers
1102. Moment I
1103. Moment II Track at ciff.1 of part II
Dimitri Vassilakis, Hideki Nagano, Florent Boffard, Frédérique Cambreling, Sandrine Chatron, Marianne Le Mentec, Vincent Bauer, Daniel Ciampolini, Michel Cerutti, Pierre Boulez
1104. Une page d'éphémeride
Hideki Nagano

Le Marteau sans Maître
1201. "L'Artisanat furieux"
1202. "Bourreaux de solitude"
1203. "L'Artisanat furieux"
1204. Commentaire II de "Bourreaux de solitude"
1205. "Bel édifice et les pressentiments" version première
1206. Commentaire III de "Bourreaux de solitude"
1207. Avant "l'Artisanat furieux"
1208. Commentaire III de "Bourreaux de solitude"
1209. "Bel édifice et les pressentiments", double
Jeanne Deroubaix, Solistes du Domaine Musical, Pierre Boulez
Le Soleil des eaux, 2è version
1210. Complainte du lézard amoureux
Roger Desormière, Choeur de la RTF, Orchestre National de la RTF
Le Soleil des eaux, 2è version
1211. La Sorgue (Chanson pour Yvonne)
Roger Desormière, Choeur de la RTF, Orchestre National de la RTF, Irène Joachim, Joseph Peyron, Pierre Mollet
1212. Sonatine Pour Flûte Et Piano
Severino Gazzelloni, David Tudor

1301. Interview de Pierre Boulez (par Claude Samuel) - Partie 1
1302. Interview de Pierre Boulez (par Claude Samuel) - Partie 2
1303. Interview de Pierre Boulez (par Claude Samuel) - Partie 3
1304. Interview de Pierre Boulez (par Claude Samuel) - Partie 4
1305. Interview de Pierre Boulez (par Claude Samuel) - Partie 5
1306. Interview de Pierre Boulez (par Claude Samuel) - Partie 6
Pierre Boulez

Boulez, the son of a steel manufacturer, majored in mathematics at the Collège de Saint-Étienne, where he also took music lessons; he later studied mathematics, engineering, and music in Lyon. In 1944–45 he was taught by the composer and organist Olivier Messiaen at the Paris Conservatory. Subsequently (1945–46), he was trained in 12-tone technique by René Leibowitz, who had been a student of Arnold Schoenberg, the father of 12-tone music. In 1953 Boulez founded a series of avant-garde concerts, the Concerts of Petit-Marigny, which were later renamed Domaine Musical.

By the 1960s Boulez had gained an international reputation not only as a composer but also as a conductor, particularly of the 20th-century repertoire. He began his first conducting post in 1958 with the Southwest Radio Symphony Orchestra in Baden-Baden, West Germany. He was principal guest conductor and then musical adviser of the Cleveland Orchestra (1969–72) and principal conductor of both the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London (1971–75) and the New York Philharmonic (1971–77). In the 1960s and ’70s he also conducted works of Richard Wagner at Bayreuth, West Germany. Boulez conducted with major orchestras in the United States and Europe, including the Chicago Symphony, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestras. He became known especially for performances of Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Maurice Ravel, and Igor Stravinsky. According to the American composer John Adams, “The precision of his performances and his recordings had a huge effect on following generations of conductors and performers.”

In the mid-1970s, with the support of the French government, Boulez created and directed the experimental Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music (IRCAM), which was housed in the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The instrumental group he established there in 1976, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, became one of the world’s most important contemporary music ensembles; Boulez toured with the group as its conductor until 1992 and continued as president thereafter.

Boulez’s complex, serialist music is marked by a sensitivity to the nuances of instrumental texture and colour, a concern also apparent in his conducting. His earlier compositions combine the influence of the 12-tone composers with that of Messiaen and, through him, of certain East Asian musical elements. Boulez was also influenced by the work of the poets Stéphane Mallarmé and René Char. In his Sonatine for flute and piano (1946), the 12-tone imitations and canons progress so quickly as to leave an impression merely of movement and texture. In Structures, Book I for two pianos (1952), the actual 12-tone series is simply taken from a work of Messiaen’s; but Boulez elaborates it to a remarkable degree in strict permutations of pitch, duration, and dynamics. Le Marteau sans maître for voice and six instruments (1953–55; The Hammer Without a Master) has florid decorative textures that flow into one another, with voice and instruments rising and falling with apparent spontaneity.

Boulez’s innovativeness was demonstrated in Pli selon pli (1957–62; Fold According to Fold), in which performers must orient themselves by maintaining a constant awareness of the structure of the work. In his Piano Sonata No. 3 (first performed 1957), as in Pli selon pli, he introduced elements of aleatory music.

Boulez’s other works include Le Visage nuptial for two voices, women’s chorus, and orchestra (1951–52, based on the chamber version of 1947; “The Bridal Countenance”); Poésie pour pouvoir for two orchestras (first performed 1958; “Poetry for Power”); Répons for chamber orchestra, six solo instruments, and computer (first performed 1981); and “…explosante-fixe…” (1972–93, several versions), for which Boulez used live electronics for all but the earliest version. He continued to compose into the 21st century, at times taking a leave from conducting to focus on his own music. He said, “I write in different levels at once—one level is simple, which gives you confidence, others are complex, which invite you to explore.”

Autobiographical works by Boulez include Relevés d’apprenti (1966; Stocktakings from an Apprenticeship), and Par volonté et par hasard (1975; Conversations with Célestin Deliège). More-theoretical writings include Penser la musique aujourd’hui (1964; Boulez on Music Today) and Points de repère (1981; Orientations). His approach to conducting is the focus of Boulez on Conducting: Conversations with Cécile Gilly (2003). Some of his letters, translated and edited by Robert Samuels, are collected in Pierre Boulez and John Cage Correspondence (1993; originally published in French, 1990).

Boulez’s many international honours included the Praemium Imperiale (1989), the Wolf Prize (2000), and the Kyoto Prize (2009). Recordings of performances that Boulez conducted won more than 20 Grammy Awards, and in 2015 he received a special Grammy for lifetime achievement. He also received high honours from the governments of Great Britain (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and Germany (Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany).

More than anyone else’s, Pierre Boulez’s oeuvre has not known completion and never will. Doubtless like so many creators – and not the least important –, he undertakes projects that, without any particular explanation, he will not follow up on. In the ‘unfinished’ category, for instance, appears a score he had planned to write for Les Percussions de Strasbourg, of which we are mentioning the idea only for the record. But in an approach of which there are few equivalents in the history of music, Pierre Boulez considers each of his works like the exploitation of a material, from which arise, in the course of an unpredictable but carefully controlled proliferation of new compositions or, more precisely, new versions of a composition that, in the final analysis, and for a given, immeasurable time, will have been only the kernel of the final piece. This is less a matter of alterations, expressing doubts or regrets, reactions that are hardly Boulezian, than the pursuit of work that, even if resulting in public performances (and such has often been the case), preserves its potentialities, so many stages before – the material deemed exhausted– the recognition of paternity of a definitive piece at last.
The present set is therefore itself testimony to a particular compositional process, the inventory of a body in the process of edification, in which certain, perfectly closed opuses are inscribed, and at the highest level, in the repertoire of contemporary musical creation whereas others, already noticed by commentators, are relegated to a sort of antechamber, the exploration of which requires the greatest patience. This set also gives the idea of a shattered chronology, unlike the classic catalogue of a musician organizing the various pieces in his development one after another. Examples abound: thus Livre pour quatuor, for which Pierre Boulez imagined the succession of six movements back in 1948. A first, partial performance took place in 1955, and then, in this year 2012, he composed one of the missing movements. Detachable pages, in a way, for which Boulez took Mallarmé as a model. Consequently, the usage of this set, work by work in the hopes of detecting an itinerary, is totally utopian, except that the Boulezian corpus, albeit manifold, is homogeneous in its references, coherent through its different models, also progressive, from the rigours of an initial post-Webernian period up to the flexibility – fantasy? – of writing that is no less precise but somehow liberated.
Missing links? Boulez wants to turn over only finished works or parts of works to the public. The programme of this set reflects the Boulezian corpus as ‘work in progress’.
Finally, the recordings, chosen in agreement with the, composer attest to a real-time interpretation, if we might say so. Foundations of a tradition on which future generations will be able to nurture themselves without being condemned, for all that, to strict observance, which would contravene all that the Boulezian philosophy has taught us. The composer provides the example; his practice of conducting, his frequenting classical composers, his thinking about his own approach, the (relative) flexibility of his own scores, and the abilities of a new generation of performers commit him to new perspectives; beyond the word-byword of the notes: more flexibility, differentiation in sound and clarity. The confrontation of the two recordings of Le Marteau sans maître proposed in this set, recordings made some forty years apart, supply the proof. In this area, nothing is definitive. But now, in addition to the pleasure of listening, knowledge of such period documents is particularly enlightening. It stimulates the listener’s thinking as much as the commentator’s and indicates fruitful paths to performers that simple faithfulness to a tradition would be unable to satisfy.
‘Every work is ambiguous: attached to the past, oriented towards the future. What is important to me,’ says Boulez, ‘is its current contribution.’ A limited, but nonetheless demanding, ambition.

The box, with lift-off lid, is substantial in size, the booklet equally so, to respectively house and accompany this treasure-trove of Pierre Boulez’s “ŒUVRES COMPLÈTES”, an enticing 13-CD project supervised by the composer and superbly presented by Deutsche Grammophon (most of the recordings chosen are from the decades of the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, and some are borrowed from other companies). On the back of the box, however, is a phrase more associated with the great French composer and conductor: “WORK IN PROGRESS”. As anyone who has followed Boulez’s compositions will know, some of his works remain in a state of revision, if still performable, although others have been withdrawn, a reflection of his ongoing requirement for refining and perfecting certain pieces. What we have in this release is “complete” as deemed by Boulez as at the production stage of the set and thus carried forward to its release in June 2013, a considered self-portrait of a great music-experimenter, one of the most influential and charismatic musicians of his time, who at the age of 88 (he was born on 26 March 1925 in Montbrison) hopefully remains active and creative despite unfortunate current eye problems that have limited his conducting activities – recently he withdrew from two of weeks of Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts. With any luck, Boulez still has the resources to write the once-proposed violin concerto for Anne-Sophie Mutter and also to complete the orchestrations of his twelve Notations, originally for piano.
Pierre Boulez. Photograph: Harold Hoffmann/DG And it’s with that cycle that the first compact disc opens, the twelve miniatures for piano, each of twelve bars (the longest lasting two minutes with several playing for less than half that length) that Boulez composed in 1945. The concentrated pungency of the sequence embraces whimsical to aggressive, here brought off with total commitment by Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who reveals that each is a gem. Then there is the cool angularity and fluttering of the Sonatina for Flute and Piano (1946, Sophie Cherrier and Aimard) and the craggy explorations of the Piano Sonata No.1 (from the same year, Aimard again). The 30-minute La visage nuptial (originally from 1947, revised in 1952, withdrawn, and further revised in 1989 to definitive effect); to texts by René Char the score is luminous, voluptuous and thrilling, rather Bergian, and it’s a colossal achievement in this Erato recording with the composer conducting BBC forces in 1989. The second disc embraces Piano Sonata No.2, that masterpiece of the late-1940s. Maurizio Pollini’s account from 1978 has been chosen (there is a later one from another pianist in DG’s catalogue). From the arresting gesture that opens the explosive opening movement through to the work’s vaporous conclusion, Pollini is the total master of the Sonata’s many fluctuations of tempo and its volatile contrasts of mood. Pollini’s classic recording sounds quiet superb in the current re-mastering. Livre pour quatuor (1962 version) is a 40-minute cycle for string quartet in eight movements; tantalising music in its unpredictability and contrasts, cultivated and perfectly judged as performed by Quatuor Parisii on an Editions Assai release from 2001.
On CD 3 is the very combative Structures Livre I (1951) for two pianos with Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky, contrasted by the sensuous choral/orchestral (char again) Le Soleil des eaux (Fourth Version, 1965), glowing with expression, followed by one of the works that helped put Boulez on the map, and which has become a modern classic, the linear and crystalline Le Marteau sans maître, which seems to meld Debussy and Webern while setting Char’s surrealist prose. The composer conducts Ensemble Intercontemporain with Hilary Summers as the vocal soloist. CD 4 is devoted to the 70-minute Pli selon pli (1989 definitive version), Boulez’s Mallarmé-inspired masterpiece; its five movements first gathered together in 1960. From this work are the three ‘Improvisation sur Mallarmé’ that are sometimes played separately. From an arresting opening, the music’s pregnancy and sensuousness builds to irresistible iridescence – fragments, interjections, stillness and activity intertwining, not a note misplaced or seeming superfluous. The close of ‘Don (du poème)’ – Gift (of a Poem) – sets the stage to be picked up again in ‘Tombeau’ (Tomb), the finale, for the three ‘Improvisations sur Mallarmé’ each set a Mallarmé poem, Be it a swan trapped in ice, the colour white, or birth and death, Boulez matches the text with music of rapture, drama and variegation, whether cool and ravishing, beguiling or brittle, agitated and desolate, these three ‘Improvisations’ (ranging from five to twenty minutes in length) demand a soprano of very particular skills and empathy. Christine Schäfer is vocally fearless, every intimacy and exclamation perfectly judged.
Opening the fifth disc are the two parts of Piano Sonata No.3 (‘Trope’ / ‘Constellation-Miroir’), the only sections of a longer work that Boulez has allowed to be performed for all that it goes back to 1957. What we have is given fluid focus by Paavali Jumppanen is an incisive and dramatic reading. Structures, Livre II (1956/61) features Aimard and Florent Boffard in a quite recessed acoustic, the pianos widely spaced left and right for this antagonistic music. Boulez’s keen ear for detail and lucidity has never stopped him addressing a large symphony orchestra while always retaining his concern for clarity. We know his mastery as a conductor (holding posts with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and New York Philharmonic, and regular engagements over many decades with the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, the LSO and the orchestras of Chicago and Cleveland). Figures, Doubles, Prismes (1958/68) is often thrilling and exquisite, played here by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer on an Erato recording from 1980.
To open disc six are the explosions of Eclat-Multiples, for instrumental ensemble, music that glitters and contains many rhythmic intricacies. Then Alain Damiens’s predatory clarinet is heard – swooping, rasping, screaming, seducing – in Domaines, immediately followed by the expanded double-the-length (30 minutes) version of the same name, for clarinet (Michel Portal this time) now with instrumental groups. As an energetically enigmatic envoi to this CD is the two-minute Improvisé – pour le Dr Kalmus (the music publisher), for flute, clarinet, piano, viola and cello: compelling, whirling and swirling, a touching 80th-birthday present. On disc 7 is cummings ist der dichter (not the title Boulez intended!), an electrifying setting of the lower-case poet. Then Livre pour cordes (from 1968 if “still evolving”), an ecstatic and ravishing piece, the strings of the Vienna Philharmonic attending to every detail for the composer (in 1992). This is followed by Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna, a time-obsessed, spatial masterpiece of increasing complexity, composed by Boulez for his friend and fellow composer/conductor who died in 1973. Boulez’s BBCSO version for Sony Classical is chosen. Messagesquisse for solo cello and a group of six cellos is tantalising. Then comes the extravagant large orchestra of five of the Notations, the first four and VII, beautiful, thrilling and wonderful music, Boulez conducting Ensemble Modern Orchestra, after which comes the contrasted coolness of Memoriale (...explosante fixe... Originel) for solo flute and ensemble. This 80-minute disc is quite something.
Disc 8 includes the activity of <<...explosante-fixe...>> itself, quite remarkable, and then the 9-minute Anthèmes for solo violin (Jeanne-Marie Conquer) is heard extended, and enveloped in IRCAM-generated sounds, as Anthèmes II, this time with Hae-Sun Kang as the violinist. CD 9 includes Répons (1984) – pulsating, colourful and totally engaging – with a sonic shock when the electronics kick in to enlarge the instruments’ dimensions and capability. Currently standing at 45 minutes, were Boulez to carry out his desired extending, then Répons could last double that length. Further electronics follow with Dialogue de l’ombre double, a fascinating dialogue between a solo clarinettist (Damiens) and his recorded double. CD 10 contains the two pieces entitled Dérive; the first short, six minutes, the second (dedicated to Elliott Carter on his 100th-birthday) much longer at 44. Both exude compositional mastery and engage the listener from beginning to end. Dérive 2 is scored for string trio, piano, harp, two percussionists (one occupied by a xylophone and the other by a marimba), clarinet, horn, cor anglais and bassoon. The music’s sheer energy and incident is exhilarating in itself. Playing continuously one might hear Dérive 2 as being in three sections (of roughly 20, 15 and 10 minutes respectively), the middle one being a ‘slow movement’ of alluring fantasy-like reflection. The energetic ‘first movement’ is sustained over many stimulating pages, and the ‘finale’, when reached, is something of an accelerating recapitulation to the full-circle culmination, a return to the horn’s ‘A’ (now augmented) that launches the piece, to close a journey of considerable thrall. CD11 includes the coruscating piano solo, Incises (played brilliantly by Dimitri Vassilakis in its “version définitive 2001”, at nearly eleven minutes longer than hitherto). Incises is followed logically, and with a musical tie, by the 37-minute sur incises (for three pianos, three harps, and three percussionists), an active and gleaming score, its ideas lucid, their development a rollercoaster of endeavour. Une page d’éphéméride is a five-minute study for piano in which much happens – declamation, pedal effects, fierce gestures and explosive passages; Hidéki Nagano gives an winning account.
CD12 is of “historical recordings”. Le Marteau sans maître is now heard in an April 1964 Paris recording that is six minutes quicker, 32 to 38, than the later more lived-in Boulez-conducted version. With contralto Jeanne Deroubaix, the earlier taping has a pioneering fervour that is tangible. The ensemble includes guitarist Anton Stingl, and Severino Gazzelloni is the marvellous flautist; and it is he who in 1956 had recorded the Sonatina for Flute and Piano, with David Tudor, who had given the premiere (silently of course) of John Cage’s Four thirty-three. Also on this disc is the second version of Le Soleil des eaux, as premiered in Paris on 18 July 1950 conducted by Roger Désormière. Three solo singers and no choir in this scoring were to become soprano and chorus for the fourth version (as on disc 3).
The French/English booklet is exemplary. There is a recent (October 2011) interview with Boulez printed within its pages – the aural equivalent, in French, is the hour-long thirteenth compact disc; Boulez’s works are listed in alphabetical order together with where to find an introductory note to them in the annotation and on which CD to listen; there is a bibliography of Boulez’s own authoring and a selection of titles by others who have written about him; a time-line (“Points of Reference”) from his birth to 2011; and texts and translations for all the vocal works. It’s been compelling, illuminating and a privilege to work through the contents of this set, issued not for any anniversary but for reasons of sheer quality.

So by whose definition is this 13-CD anthology ‘complete’? The front cover may proudly trumpet ‘Pierre Boulez: Oeuvres Complètes’ but flipping the box around tells a different story. Nowhere there that magic word ‘complete’. Instead, just above where we’re told that the composer himself supervised this edition, you read ‘Pierre Boulez: Work in Progress’, which rather whiffs of a carefully chosen form of words agreed after long and pained telephone conversations between Boulez HQ and DG. Record companies like ‘definitive’ products, a cultural done deal ripe for the packaging. But Boulez, presumably, baulked at the notion of career retrospective, drawing a grand valedictory metaphorical double bar-line around his work.

And this wording does give Boulez plenty of wiggle-room. Airbrushed out of consideration, although readily available elsewhere on CD, are the sins of his youth. Polyphonie X was proto-Structures, Boulez’s first attempt to make total serialism fly within an instrumental context. The history books invariably cite it and the work’s 1951 premiere at Donaueschingen ruffled plenty of feathers. But you’re not going to hear it here. And ditto an early orchestral/electronic piece Poésie pour pouvoir (1958) and a youthful dummy-run at what would evolve into the final section of Pli selon pli, Tombeau à la mémoire du Prince Max Egon zu Fürstenberg (1959).

Nor, sad to say, are there any signs of those new projects Boulez has been discussing in recent interviews. We’re still waiting for Waiting for Godot: The Opera (could Boulez’s cunning concept be that it’ll never show up?), further instalments of his orchestral Notations and a violin/orchestral piece involving Anne-Sophie Mutter. As the great man said, work in progress. But, even if you’re a got-it-all Boulez collector, there is enough new/rare material here to tempt you in. Two pieces – Improvisé – pour le Dr Kalmus and Une page d’éphéméride – were recorded specifically for this edition. Boulez has opted to include a live 2010 Dérive II rather than the recording he released in 2005; meanwhile, an excellent live Livre pour cordes cut with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1992 is rescued from the historical graveyard of VHS video, and a 2007 recording of the orchestral Notations with Ensemble Modern is heard for the first time on disc. There’s also a bonus disc of historical curios: the 1950 premiere of Le soleil des eaux, a notably light-on-its-pins Le marteau sans maître from 1964 and a Sonatine featuring flautist Severino Gazzelloni and Cage’s main piano man David Tudor.

But what does listening to wall-to-wall Boulez teach us about his art? If the clichés and accepted histories run deep – Boulez as revolutionary, fidgety progressive, a man always but a word away from an ideological punch-up – the myths and paranoid untruths flow ever deeper. Boulez never did set out to destroy tradition. He was no left-wing revolutionary (like Nono), nor an anarchist (like Cage). No, the shocking revelation this set forces us to confront is how aesthetically settled and refined Boulez’s language had become by the mid-1960s. By the time of his 1958 orchestral piece Figures – Doubles – Prismes, and certainly by the time he composed cummings is der Dichter in 1970, you broadly know what to expect of a Boulez composition. The details, of course, change and fluctuate, but there are no stylistic bolts from the blue.

Which are not, I suspect, words that would gladden Boulez’s heart. But I come to praise his music, not to bury it. The only tradition Boulez wanted to annihilate – and properly so – was the tradition of freeloading off tradition, of tepidly reheating gestures for which the historical imperative could no longer function.

And, quite honestly, if audiences can ‘get’ Debussy’s La mer and Jeux, I see no reason to fear the well-sequined harmonies and glitter-and-be-gay timbres of Boulez’s ‘…explosante-fixe…’ or Dérive I. His sur Incises, for three pianos, three harps and three percussionists, is like a journey into the centre of an idea of Debussian textures long after the event, with Messiaen’s gamelan invocations pegged in the background. Even the notorious and crazily expensive-to-mount Répons for soloists, large ensemble and electronics – the joke being that it would be cheaper to send a Proms audience to Paris than bring Répons to the Proms – with its cheerfully chattering opening ensemble unisons and arrow-headed sense of urgent development, the harmony slowing down in the middle, bidding you in before Boulez works towards a conclusion, has a classic, traditional arc-like structure. Music like you always knew it was.

The early Boulez – particularly Book 1 of Structures, performed here with drill-bit might by the Kontarsky brothers – could feel like music collapsing towards automated mathematics, Boulez’s total serialism doing its worst; but, all these decades on, it’s time to cut the old boy some slack. The beauty of Structures lies in its powerful, sometimes eerie reconfiguration of the familiar piano, the gestural white canvas Boulez needed for what would come next: Le marteau sans maître, Piano Sonata No 3 and Pli selon pli. If pushed, though, I’d claim Rituel: in memoriam Bruno Maderna as his standout moment, especially in the cool ritual of this 1982 BBC SO performance; the emotional engagement with a fallen hero crashing into the objectifying power of Boulez’s music. Result: complete satisfaction.