Nearly 84 years old when these live performances were recorded in Chicago, Pierre Boulez remains a musical force to be reckoned with. The composer and conductor, once known to members of the New York Philharmonic as “The French Correction” for his legendary ear, leads the best Pulcinella I’ve ever heard—precise in rhythm, balance, and instrumental color, yet full of danceable energy and life. The “wrong notes” the composer interpolates into Pergolesi’s eighteenth century harmonies seem perfectly natural rather than provocative. Boulez plays the entire score, complete with vocal soloists, not just the usual suite. The CSO’s first-chair players are magnificent, in for example the singing oboe solos in “Serenata.”
The remainder of the program is far from negligible. The Symphony’s opening movement proceeds with a determined logic that serves the music’s inherent drama well, and the Andante is saturated with a sweet sadness that belies the conductor’s alleged coolness. Stravinsky’s Four Etudes are concise models of the composer’s neoclassical style.
CSO Resound’s orchestral sound is weighty, open, and richly textured, with exceptional clarity.