Boulez is an excellent match for Stravinsky, as many already know. From the days of his early 1960s LP of Le Sacre du Printemps, still one of the best accounts of the work, he has been regarded as one of Stravinsky's finest interpreters. He carries that reputation mainly because "interpret" is one thing he does little of. And in works by this composer, who believed music expressed itself – not some emotion – his more objective way succeeds splendidly.
In both the Symphony of Psalms and Symphony in Three Movements he offers two of the most compelling versions I've ever encountered. In fact, owing to DG's excellent sound, these would now be my preferred choices in this pair of symphonies, certainly the two best of the mature three. The serene ending of the Symphony of Psalms never sounded more beautiful than on this release. Boulez may have a reputation for somewhat antiseptic-sounding Mahler, but here, despite his straightforward podium persona and the composer's generally detached emotional state, the tenderness and consolation of the score comes through most effectively. The Symphonies of Wind Instruments also fares quite well. The Berlin Philharmonic is in fine form throughout. Highly recommended.
Copyright © 2000, Robert Cummings