Monday, February 04, 2008

Boulez: Stravinsky & Berlioz

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Pierre Boulez, performed Petrushka by Igor Stravinsky last Saturday evening. Before the intermission mezzo-soprano Susan Graham sang Les nuits d'ete, op. 7 of Hector Berlioz. Both works were performed with artistic excellence and controlled power. The Stravinsky piece, premiered in 1911, was written just two years before his revolutionary Le Sacre du Printemps. There were moments that foreshadowed the music that was to come as the orchestra brought out the many voices of the shrovetide fair that provided the setting for the story line of Petrushka. Stravinsky's subtle blend of folk song motifs with not so subtle, jarringly modern harmonies still sounds modern to my ears. But it has become a familiar sound, part of the cultural milieu of the twentieth century just as the music of Berlioz, once revolutionary as well, had become an integral part of nineteenth century culture. The Chicago Symphony was in fine form once more with these great musical achievements.

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