Pierre Boulez is now universally acclaimed as one of the most important conductors of the century. His conducting technique, his reflections on performing, his way of listening to the orchestra as well as his human relations with the musicians: these are some of the many aspects we have to tackle in order to shed a light upon his unique talent, which gave a new face to a whole section of music, from the end of Romanticism (Wagner, Mahler) to the contemporary repertory (Messiaen and the young generations), including the XXth century’s “classics” (Debussy, Stravinsky, the Vienna movement).
The “masterclasses” given in the Carthusian monastery of Villeneuve-les-Avignon in July 1988 were on their own an important event: it was the first time that Boulez was offering such a large-scale teaching since the lectures he gave at the Conservatoire of Bale in 1962 as the guest of Paul Sacher.
The particularly lively context of these conducting lectures (young musicians conducting the Ensemble InterContemporain) provided the ideal substance for a television film, the visual dimension of the exercise expressing more than any didactic comment.
Olivier Mille chose to illustrate this theoretical part with a sequence of rehearsal filmed in London in September 1988: Pierre Boulez can be seen at work with a symphony orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which he conducted several years in a row. Pierre Boulez rehearses Mahler’s Tenth Symphony and Berg’s “Sieben Frühe Lieder”, sung solo by Jessye Norman.
PROCIREP Prize, International Festival of Audiovisual Programs (Cannes, 1989)
Best Film about Music, Festival International de Montréal (1990)