The greatest of Mozart's wind serenades and the toughest of Alban Berg's major works might seem an unlikely pairing, but in an interview included with the sleeve notes for this release, Pierre Boulez points up their similarities. Both works are scored for an ensemble of 13 wind instruments (with solo violin and piano as well in the Berg) and both include large-scale variations as one of their movements - and Boulez makes the comparisons plausible enough in these lucid performances. It's rare to hear him conducting Mozart, too, and if the performance is a little brisker and more strait-laced than ideal, the EIC's phrasing is a model of clarity and good taste. It's the performance of the Berg, though, that makes this such an important issue; both soloists, Mitsuko Uchida and Christian Tetzlaff, are perfectly attuned to Boulez's approach - they have given a number of performances of the Chamber Concerto before - and the combination of accuracy and textural clarity with the highly wrought expressiveness that is the essence of Berg's music is perfectly caught.
The years have seen Pierre Boulez record for CBS, Erato, EMI, and Philips, among other labels, but his most consistent and critically praised work has appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, where he has conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and his own Ensemble InterContemporain in many successful performances. These ensembles are heard on this trimline, six-CD box set of Igor Stravinsky's major works, which brings together Boulez's recordings of L'oiseau de feu, Petrushka, Le Sacre du printemps, L'histoire du Soldat, the symphonies, concertos, and other works, recorded between 1980 and 1996. As one of the leading champions of modernism, first as a composer and essayist, then as a prominent conductor, Boulez is regarded as an authority on Stravinsky's oeuvre, and it is difficult to imagine many conductors who have a better understanding of the technical and stylistic issues that affect performances. Boulez is also famous for his precision and meticulousness, which make the details stand out clearly in the rhythmically complex and texturally dense orchestral scores of the ballets, and yet seem so delicate and exact in the concertos and pieces for smaller ensembles.
What remains consistent is Pierre Fournier's elegant and aristocratic playing, his superb control of the bow and his supple, consistently beautiful tone impressed a whole generation of cellists and music lovers all over the world. Sixty-five years since he first recorded for Decca, we are proud to celebrate the artistry of this most distinguished of cellists and the wealth of recordings for Deutsche Grammophon, Decca and Philips – presented here together for the very first time in this 25-CD limited edition set.
Louisiana journeyman swamp rocker Tab Benoit has been churning out an album a year since at least 2002, and between them he stays on the road playing every festival, club, and bar that'll have him. It would seem inevitable that the quality of these studio recordings would decline. But, at least as of 2007's Power of the Pontchartrain, that isn't the case. If anything, this might be the best of a very good lot, as Benoit again teams with Louisiana's Le Roux group (who once backed legend Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and helped on Benoit's previous release) for another 52-minute wade through muggy yet taut bayou blues. Part of the reason Benoit's recent albums are so strong is that he doesn't insist on playing original material, instead cherry-picking nuggets rearranged to suit his approach. This works particularly well here since he unearths terrific, often obscure material from writers such as Julie Miller (two tracks), David Egan (two others), and even Stephen Stills (a not entirely necessary "For What It's Worth").