Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Boulez on Wagner and the English horn

On p. 222 of the English translation of his book Orientations (Harvard UP 1986),Boulez closes his discussion of Berlioz with the ingenious idea that the use of the English horn (a pastoral instrument) in the third movement of the Symphonie fantastique forms a link between Beethoven's Sixth ("Pastoral") symphony (the concert tradition) and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (the theater tradition). The latter reference is to the use of the English horn immediately after the the prelude that opens Act III. Here are two short references to that moment in Wagner's opera:


Act III opens with one of the darkest and most spectacularly despondent performances of the Prelude I have heard. The sense of desolation is palpable

review of recording
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tristan und Isolde (1865)
Nina Stemme (sop) ... Isolde
Plácido Domingo (ten) ... Tristan

review by Mark Bridle;

and from a complete libretto:


[after prelude of Act III]
Tristan lies asleep on a couch in the shade of a great lime tree: he is stretched out as if lifeless. At his head sits Kurvenal, bending over him in grief and listening intently to his breathing. The sound of a shepherd's pipe, sad and yearning, is heard.

[shepherd then talks to Kurvenal about Tristan]

Monday, September 19, 2005

Boulez on Mallarmé

Pierre Boulez, on p. 217 of the English translation of his book Orientations (Harvard UP 1986) refers to the French poet Mallarmé,and to Mallarmé's poem,
“Un Coup de dés." (The full title of the poem could be translated thus: A throw of the dice will never abolish chance.") Here is a small clarifying reference to that poem:

[from The World Book, 1983):

“His last poem, “Un Coup de dés jamais abolira le hasard” (1897) , expresses the confrontation between the chaos of the universe (le hasard) and the desire of people to shape their own destiny (le coup de dés).´(Anna Balakian)

tovey's background

Here is a bit of usseful background on Tovey, from the online version of the New
Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.):


In July 1914 he was appointed to the Reid Chair of Music at Edinburgh University, which to some extent resolved the conflict that had gradually been developing between his various activities. But he never came to regard himself as a scholar, disliked the company of mere musicologists, and looked upon most of his writings as the work of a popularizer. In 1914–15 he promoted a series of historical concerts at the university and in 1917 he founded the Reid Orchestra which soon played and has continued to play a notable part in the musical life of the city. It was for the Reid concerts that the extensive series of programme notes were written which subsequently achieved a more permanent form as Essays in Musical Analysis (1935–9). The penetrating insight of many of these essays gives some idea of his qualities as a teacher, for which he was revered by his pupils. Teaching, lecturing and editorial work consumed most of his time after World War I, but he appeared as a pianist in the USA in 1925 and in 1927–8 and performed in Edinburgh with many of the finest executants of the time whom he numbered among his friends – Joachim, Casals, Suggia, the Buschs, Jelly d'Arányi, Julius Röntgen and others. However, the Edinburgh public took comparatively little notice of the opportunities he created for such artists to be heard.


[R means + editorial revision]