PLI SELON PLI: A Modern Masterpiece


Boulez. Pli Selon Pli. Christine Schafer, soprano; Ensemble Intercontemporain, conducted by Pierre Boulez. CD, Deutsche Grammophon 289 471 344-2. This album was nominated for the 2002 Grammy Award for Best Classical

This is the latest of three recordings of Pierre Boulez conducting his own music in Deutsche Grammophon’s 20/21 series, devoted to contemporary classical music. Pli Selon Pli, subtitled “a portrait of Mallarmé,” is intended as an homage to the allusive and at times enigmatic poetry of 19th-century French Symbolist Stéphane Mallarmé. The title reflects the long and gradual process that formed the piece. According to the composer, the work’s title was taken “from the sonnet Remémoration d’amis belges, which describes the brightening mist that gradually, “fold by fold” (“pli selon pli”) like a curtain opening, reveals the stone (in this case, the buildings of Bruges). So it was with the creation of this work: it came about little by little, and in the beginning I had no idea as to what sort of piece it would become.” Initially, in 1957 Boulez wrote two “improvisations” based on the poetry of Mallarmé and two years later added a third.

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