Pierre Boulez met John Cage for the first time in 1949. Though their approaches to composing were utterly different, each admired what the other had achieved and they struck up an unlikely friendship, which left an imprint on Boulez’s music when he introduced elements of controlled chance into his compositions. The works for two pianos on this disc from Pi-Hsien Chen and Ian Pace interweave pieces from Cage’s Music for Piano – his first keyboard work to rely upon chance operations to generate all the musical material, leaving the performers with decisions about what to play and for how long – with the two books of Boulez’s Structures. The first, from 1952, was Boulez’s last score to use serial techniques to determine every aspect of the composition – pitch, duration, dynamics, attacks – while the second book, composed nine years later, revisits the same material, but gives the players a limited choice in what to select and when. In comparison with the rigour and hard edges of its predecessor, the piano writing in Structures Book 2 is thrillingly brilliant, and it makes a wonderful contrast to the cool discontinuities of Cage’s pieces, with their plucked and strummed notes, percussive knockings and muffled chords.
[via The Guardian]