05 Nov 2018

Bach and Boulez :: Thoughts on similarities and contrasts

by Thierry Fischer

Besides an obvious contrast of time between the XVII and XX centuries, there is surprisingly not so much musical contrast between the two composers. Both Bach and Boulez pieces are what we call perfection, in small ensembles. Both are poetry. The Brandenburg Concertos are perfection in German Baroque style: exuberant with contagious energy. Boulez’ Memorial, Dérive and Initiale are perfection in French melancholy dream-like worlds, in an absolute irresistible and inviting mixture of sounds.

Bach’s audacity makes us feel like it is not old music. Boulez’ warm, inviting novelty makes us feel unexpectedly at home after a few seconds and sustains the feeling.

The mixing of the two styles will show us that the notion of beauty and harmony doesn’t correspond to the notion of time. I am convinced that during the performances, we will completely forget which composer we are actually performing and listening to. It should be a revelation: realizing that beauty is eternal, whether it has been written today or a couple of centuries ago.