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Pierre Boulez, Livre pour quatuor, Parts I a and I b, Quatuor Parrenin

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Uploaded on Nov 1, 2009

Much has been written about the fabled chamber ensemble whose players speak as one pure instrument. In Le Livre Pour Quatuor (1949) the style and craft of the composer literally force this felicitous state upon any string quartet that might approach this work. Yet it is a different single-minded instrument that Pierre Boulez has brought to life here than the ensemble of players would traditionally seek. What Boulez invokes is not the violinviolacello of one timre, but rather an instrument whose colors shift constantly. Though the four parts in Livre find themselves incessantly crossing and re-crossing each others traditional territory, it is crossed as (for example) a low violin playing softly and tremolando on the wooden part of the bow. And continuing our example, these one or two low notes might precede the final note of a phrase which the cello closes out on a high and loud pizzicato. The work itself is a remarkable example of the string quartet begun in the 18th Century as a violin solo accompanied by a second violin, a viola, and a cello in its growth toward total flexibility and democratization of parts. It is also a work of extreme beauty, one of the four or five truly firm and forward-looking major works to rise out of the five years following World War II. One perceives in Livre Pour Quatuor the mind of Boulez preparing for the generally serialized Structures I which was to shock many in the world of new music and for others was to close the book forever on serialization as technically unexplored country. What is, unfortunately, so often undiscovered about Pierre Boulez in all the furor over techniques and intemperate news statements is the simple fact that his compositions seek and almost invariably achieve beauty of expression. They come to life and remain alive. In Livre and in this performance by the Parennin and Hamann Quartets he is seen to accomplish that life through the severe but venerable medium of the string quartet and the medium itself seems to become young again.

Liner notes by Carman Moore for LP release

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