philosophical and spiritual agenda
JOHN BELL YOUNG writes in defence of Scriabin
Pierre Boulez has long belonged to that elite category of musicians that
is only too easily described as great. In music of Debussy, Schoenberg,
Mozart and so many others he invariably finds something of a work's truth
content, illuminating every motivic detail and its structural organization.
Were only that the case in Scriabin, a composer whose works he not only
misinterprets, but insults in this ludicrously wrongheaded, mathematically
inspired approach. Missing the point entirely, Mr Boulez fails to acknowledge
that in Scriabin he is confronted with music whose complexity exceeds purely
musical considerations. Instead, he irresponsibly ignores its most fundamental
aesthetic issues. He mistakes Scriabin for Debussy or Schoenberg, as if
they shared a musical message. But they do not. Nor are their musical
aesthetics even remotely similar.
It is astonishing that a conductor of Mr Boulez's erudition could be
so interpretively dense. He turns a blind eye to Scriabin's all-consuming
philosophical and spiritual agenda, which he codified so deftly in compositional
categories. In support of this ill conceived interpretation, even the New
York Times was duped, arguing that Mr Boulez had 'liberated' the composer.
Nonsense! On the contrary, he has succeeded only in imprisoning Scriabin,
perhaps out of fear of the music's overt expressiveness and the role that
extra-musical phenomena so actively play in it. Mr Boulez's rote, though
pristine readings suggest that he either hasn't done his homework or simply
doesn't care. While the immanent content of Scriabin's music is indeed rational
-- even obsessively so -- the exceptionally rich ideology that informs it
and its performance -- is not.
Copyright © 23 January 2000 John Bell
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