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It is performed by the British group Lontano. They are a little ensemble which focus on Latin-American and Female composers (two groups still unfairly under-repesented) as well as other new music in general. Indeed, I think they gave a performance of Ferneyhough's Transit a few years ago. In this recording they are joined by well known mezzo Linda Hurst.
Arnold Whitall I think, pointed out how there is a sense of difficulty and urgency in this perfornace, compared with what has become Boulez's progressively more relaxed recordings, culmibnating in the 1989 Ensemble Intercontemporain performance on Columbia CD for instance, which may be still avilable in some places. If at times the playing isn't as polished as that recent-ish Ensemble InterContemporain peformance, it is certainly more committed and more exciting, giving the feeling that this intricate polyphony could self-destruct at any moment.
The CD title Boulez sans Boulez not only parodies his DG covers, but also points out that this is one of the very few releases where Boulez has had no role in the recording. I think this is very beneficial, as more views of the work start to emerge. And also, one may ask, why has Boulez not recorded Marteau for DG, is he no longer interested in it? Don't DG like it?
The other work on the disc is Piano Sonata 1 played by Marc Ponthus. I have to say that this my favourite performance of this little gem, the toccata sections have real power to them and the slower bits seem almost like hallucinatory interjections. Great stuff. The recording is crisp, but still with plenty of resonance.
Marteau is a work I truly love as well as respect, and I think a large part of that comes from the oft discussed ensemble. I increasingly can't stomach (post)modern orchestral music, and for instance find Boulez's orchestral Notations highly problematic, as well as his revisions of Soleil des Eaux and Visage Nuptial, which I don't really think work. It is understandable after working with orchestras for so long, but I think Papa Boulez should really put it to bed. The orchestra arose at a certain point in history to perform certain cultural functions for ceratin groups of people. Its sound is intimately tied up with these conditions, and as we are no longer those people demanding those fucntions at that time, the orchestra loses the rationale for its continued existence. And so now the orchestra's main fucntion now seems to be the institutionalisation of historically-mediocre music, it becomes a tedious mueseum. There are some orchestral pieces which I still find fascinating Earth Dances, Vanity, Lachenmann etc. Yet there is nothing universal about the orchestra, and it doesnt always have to be regarded as the standard music medium against which others are contrasted. There is nothing new in this statement, Louis Andriessen was putting it forward in the 70s. As was Helmut Lachenmann. Marteau was one giant step in that liberation which Boulez's latter career would drastically counteract - ironically as a result of trying to get Marteau itself performed properly. (Although his most recent music like Sur Incises seems to move decisively away from the orchestral formation once again.)
The fact that Marteau has nothing to do with typical orchestral textures, and therefore has such a crystalline clarity is partly why I like Marteau so much. The other part, of course, is that is contains some of the best (post)serial music ever written. And rest assured if you have been looking for a recording of Marteau, this will do very well indeed. Seeing that Amazon.com say its unavailable you may want to check out their website/catalogue ...I ordered this through my local Classical CD shop in Perth and they got it in with no problems. So off you go...