Monotonous Forest turns two today, and I can't think of a better way to mark the occasion than to offer a quip from last night's concert with Pierre Boulez: "I like virtuosity--not for the sake of virtuosity, but because it is dangerous."
With Boulez conducting, mezzo-soprano Hilary Summers and members of the Lucerne Festival Academy handled Le marteau sans maître with complete aplomb and naturalness--not easy in a work that after more than fifty years remains sparkling yet inscrutable. In further comments that spoke volumes about the abilities of today's performers, Boulez recalled the world premiere in Europe, which took fifty hours of rehearsal, and the United States premiere in Los Angeles which required sixty. He said last night's Lucerne musicians had "eight or ten hours."
After intermission came a highly charged version of sur Incises, for three pianos, three harps, and three percussionists. One acquaintance, who knows the piece well, said he doesn't quite like it completely but that he had never heard it sound so persuasive. I only know it from a single recording (on Deutsche Grammophon), but as usual, the live performance had even more electricity.
[Photo: Comet "Wild 2," photographed on January 2, 2004 by Team Stardust, NASA]