“Taking pictures makes me feel like the Tour d’Eiffel”: Former students of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY on Pierre Boulez

Das Orchester der LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY und Matthias Pintscher beim Luzerner Boulez-Tag 2015 (Foto: Peter Fischli/LUCERNE FESTIVAL)

The Orchestra of the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY and Matthias Pintscher, „A Day for Pierre Boulez“, Lucerne 2015 (photo: Peter Fischli/LUCERNE FESTIVAL)

113 musicians from 25 different countries have traveled to Lucerne to convene as the Orchestra of LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY Alumni and to perform a memorial concert for Pierre Boulez on Sunday. At some point between 2004 and 2015, all of them were students at the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY, and all were decisively inspired by their encounters with Boulez with regard to their artistic formation and career paths.

Kevin John Edusei, conductor | participant in the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY in 2007:
At the 2007 Lucerne Festival I had the huge privilege to work with Pierre Boulez on Stockhausen’s Gruppen, conducting the same orchestra part that he had conducted during the premiere of the piece 50 years before. Right after this picture was taken, Pierre Boulez turned around and said to me: “Taking pictures makes me feel like the Tour d’Eiffel.” That is what he truly was in classical music.

Kevin John Edusei und Pierre Boulez

Kevin John Edusei and Pierre Boulez

Miranda Sielaff, viola | participant in the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY in 2007, 2008, 2009:
My favorite Boulez quote: “I do not like virtuosity for its own sake but because it is dangerous.” When we rehearsed Notations with Boulez, he stopped the orchestra and asked the cellos to play one by one (there are 12 different parts). He exclaimed, “Who is playing an A? There is also a C and E in this chord, and if you play an A it sounds an A minor triad – that’s the worst possible sound in my music!”

(on the right: Miranda Sielaff)

on the right: Miranda Sielaff

Adam Goodwin,
double bass | participant in the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ACADEMY in 2010, 2011, 2013:

It was the first rehearsal of Stravinsky’s Chant du Rossignol, which features a short but awkward double bass solo. I was sitting principal bass and Boulez was conducting. The passage wouldn’t be so difficult – in fact it’s only a six- to eight-second solo featuring three notes repeated over and over again in different rhythms – except for the fact that Stravinsky indicates it should all be played on one string, making the passage exceptionally uncomfortable to play and extremely comical to watch. The moment for the bass solo arises, and Pierre Boulez looks at me with his intensely demanding yet tender gaze and gives a subtle gesture with his right hand, signaling for me to begin. I flail around the bass, trying to find these three sinister notes over and over again, repeatedly failing and apparently presenting an amusing spectacle as I do so. After the solo the other bassists enter, joining the solo part with repeated triplets featuring the same three notes as the solo. Given my arbitrary rhythmic interpretation of the passage and the imprecise pitches of my attempted solo, the section has no idea where to enter, and each player begins to play at a slightly different moment with a slightly different tempo and pitch center, resulting in a somehow beautiful cacophony which has, unfortunately, nothing to do with Stravinsky’s composition. Boulez looks over at the bass section, the tenderness lost from his gaze, and gives the most exasperated “uuuggghhhhhhhhh” I have ever heard. The orchestra bursts into laughter, and the Maestro delivers the next downbeat

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