Weekly Update


“I HAVE GREAT ADMIRATION for David Bowie. We only had a few moments of contact. One was back in 1976 when he was at Music for 18 Musicians in Berlin and then made his beautiful Weeping Wall. Years later at the Bottom Line in 1978 during the ECM ‘18’ release concert we finally met and I was invited to see David Bowie on Broadway in The Elephant Man. His performance was riveting as one watched this incredibly handsome man create a character of freakish ugliness. More recently I was struck by his deeply sad yet commanding voice in the Love is Lost remix with Clapping Music. I’m proud to have made even a minutely small contribution to David Bowie’s incredibly varied and influential musical output. He was an absolutely brilliant and original artist whose impact was felt across many mediums.”


MARC PONTHUS’ new Bridge recording of Boulez’ complete piano music was released two days before the composer’s death on January 5. Ponthus examines Boulez’ expressiveness, and his own interpretation of it. I’ll have to take his word for its authenticity and authority. While Boulez did not abandon inherited practices and procedures he forced upon them original departures which I agree makes him an indispensable extension of the ever-evolving classical tradition. Every generation needs its explorers, including those who blaze new trails. However, those trails are only confirmed by those who follow their footsteps or take radical departures from them, like Debussy, Stravinsky and Olivier Messiaen, all of whom changed the game but attracted no authentic disciples.

At a seminar Boulez replied to a question from the audience, “Shostakovi342000ch is a second-rate composer. Don´t mistake me. He is an excellent composer, but the evolution of music would not have been altered had he not lived. If we had not experienced Berg and Schoenberg then our world would be different.” Point well-argued and well-taken.

Pianist Ponthus says, “Yes, Mr. Boulez knew about the recording and was waiting for the completed version to be sent. He received the first edit of the 2nd sonate quite a while ago, as well as a first edit of the 3rd sonate about four months ago. Before I recorded the 3rd sonate the composer suggested that I work to make a pedal extension for a second piano. I worked with the Steinway people to have this done. With it I have control over the dampers of a second piano. I remove the lid of the first piano so that it acts on the overtones of the second piano, which I can control with the extension. Boulez was highly sensitive to the sustaining and lack of sustaining characteristics of the instrument, and always working to take these into account.”

Fascinating, I’m sure. In Douze Notations I heard wit; in Incises I heard incisions—actually engravings. Admire him? Certainly. Laugh out loud? Not so much. Yet I much prefer Boulez as comedic Pierrot over Boulez le sérieux. Bon voyage M Boulez.


“THE BIRDS OF RHIANNON.” Magical. To hear the selected Gallant Weaver, click to play.


NATHANIEL BERMAN, conductor of the UCSC Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble, and as Santa Cruz County Youth Symphony’s music director, is exploding his career in the SF Bay Area. Click HERE


SINCE I GRIPED last week about not getting enough Mahler, Daniel Stewart and the Santa Cruz Symphony will give us Frère Jacques this weekend in the guise of Mahler’s First Symphony. Frère Jacques you ask? Just listen to the double bass solo that opens the third movement in a mournful fugue, and the cackling woodwinds that mock it. Yes, Virginia, that’s what happens in symphonies by Mahler, just before klezmer music takes over. What will Danny do with it?


CHRIS PRATORIUS and the Santa Cruz Chamber Players. Click HERE

Scott MacClelland, editor