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An all-consuming
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.


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Copyright © 23 January 2000 John Bell Young, USA


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