Pierre Boulez is one of the fascinating musical figures of the twentieth century, largely because of the way he deliberately divided people’s opinions of him. He deserved his reputation for brilliance; he also encouraged the impression that he was prickly, remote, and above the masses. Boulez rose to fame as a composer who contentiously advanced his ideas about the avant-garde, and the quality of his music overcame objections to his personality. Then he became one of the world’s great conductors. Again, there were objections. His critics were right that his gifts were not suited to everything in the repertoire. But even his critics had to agree that in the music for which Boulez had a true affinity, there was no one who could make a performance more thrilling and intellectually penetrating. In this great recording from 1992 he conducts one of the masterpieces of the twentieth century, Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in this performance meets the highest standard of technical and expressive precision.
Performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pierre Boulez (10 minutes)