France’s Pierre Boulez was a giant of avant-garde music in the period following the Second World War. He is part of a conversation that includes greats like Arnold Schoenberg, John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen. His “Le Marteau sans maître,” “Pli selon pli” and “Répons” (premiered in 1955, 1960 and 1981 respectively) all count as major works in 20th century classical music.
Wim Dehaen’s decision to pay tribute comes just two years after Boulez’s passing in January 2016. His 12 Elegies For Pierre Boulez has been combined with a soundtrack to the Lukáš Janičík film Ústí.
The elegies range in length from 35 to 93 seconds a piece. The collection is sometimes tense, sometimes gently reflective. Each is beautifully played.
The brevity of these works will surprise some Boulez fans. The man was notorious for reworking and adding to his compositions long after they premiered. By not reaching the two-minute mark on any of these pieces, Dehaen leaves little or no room for similar tinkering.
From his album notes: “These pieces are like little imprints conveying some aspects of Boulez’s work, while mostly doing away with linear progression and rhythm and instead zooming in on timbre, moods and tone clusters.”
Ústí OST is a lengthier, electronic soundscape-styled composition. Just as Janičík’s film connects natural and urban settings, Dehaen has given us a work that, depending on your perspective, is calming, severe or both. Its smoothness is matched by a piercing quality that lasts much of the track’s 10:37.