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Varése: Amériques, Arcana, Déserts, Ionisation

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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  • Audio CD (2 Mar. 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Decca (UMO)
  • ASIN: B00005KBJS
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 270,492 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Pretty much a perfect recording. With Varése, precision is the key to squeeze beauty out of what seems to be noise and Boulez is precision personified. Here he commands the CSO towards revolutionary soundscapes and thunderous climaxes, while retaining amazing transparency and detail. Ideal for testing out that pricey audio setup you just bought. Oh, you didn't? Well, this CD might convince you to.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x8dc2cd98) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e87f8f4) out of 5 stars Varese in context 2 Nov. 2002
By Mark A. Leach - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The editorial review and some others rather miss the point of Boulez' recording. Boulez, a French composer and conductor, interprets Varese, a French-born composer whose work begins just after Debussy's death, as a colorist in the manner of the older composer. This makes historical sense. The vulgar and exaggerated displays of noise in most earlier recordings can make Varese seem hysterical. But Boulez allows us to view these works as the post-Debussy coloristic masterpieces they are, crafted with great care as to nuance and balance of sound. Boulez gives us a vision of Varese reborn without all the excessive clanging and banging and sirening that usually overshadow his most inventive, influential, and (please notice) subtle music. This is a welcome CD issue.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e87f924) out of 5 stars Do NOT miss this ! 2 Nov. 2004
By Patrik Lemberg - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I've really enjoyed (and still do) the "complete Works" double disc set by Chailly/RCO/ASKO and have listened to it over and over to the point where I've even been able to sing along to Ionisation and Poèmé Électronique, but having listened to the "complete Webern" boxed set by Boulez/BPhH/BBC Singers (et al.), I was turned on by the idea of Boulez conducting works by Varése, and with the help of my good friend Google I found this disc, ordered it immediately and was blown away beyond my expectations.

In comparison to Chailly's readings, Boulez's lead appears more controlled and more secure, but not only in terms of musical comprehension and efforts thereof - the sound is clearer and brings out parts that sometimes go unheard (or unnoticed) on the Chailly recordings, on which there is too much depth at times. Yes, depth can go too far and turn into an undistinguishable mess. Fortunately it doesn't turn that ugly on the Chailly discs, but the clearness of the overall sound here speaks to you in a more natural manner - you don't have to concentrate to "get the picture" - on the contrary; the mix of these 1995-96 recordings invites you--with more space, wider stereo picture, and somewhat more controlled dynamics (but by no means with a lack of depth)--to enjoy the music without your having to make an effort.

The tempos are just right, and even though I first reacted to the intro of Arcana being played too Andante, I learned that I could appreciate the big picture better here than on the Chailly's reading, and only the second time of listening to Boulez's reading of the piece, I did NOT think it should have been played faster - it makes perfect sense this way. I think this is as coherent and powerful a reading of orchestral music this dissonant you will find.

Buy it for Amériques. Buy it for Arcana. Buy it for Ionisation (a wonderfully captured essence of classical percussion). Buy it for Déserts, but a warning to those of you who might be buying this disc only for the sake of getting a complete version of Déserts; the three pre-recorded interpolations included on the Chailly recording are not included. The 4 main episodes--making the piece 17 minutes long--are included though, and are performed flawlessly. Enjoy!
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8e87ffcc) out of 5 stars Sounds magnificent 17 Sept. 2001
By Frank Paris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
I have Boulez's earlier Sony recording of the Varese but I haven't listened to it in a while so I can't compare it to this. I bought this mainly to hear what the Chicago Symphony sounds like these days (as it turns out, this was recorded in 1995 (Ameriques, Ionisation) and 1996 (Arcana, Deserts), so it isn't as current as I'd hoped). To me, what Varese is all about is the magnificent sounds that an orchestra can make and this recording delivers the goods. I guess the critics don't like this performance that much, but I don't sense a lack of excitement without other records I've heard over the years fresh in my mind, and I find the recording so luminous, dynamic, and crystal clear that I can't help recommending it without reserverations. After all, Varese IS about SOUNDS and this recording has them in spades.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ddf6918) out of 5 stars an antidote to Chailly 12 May 2002
By andrew john raiskums - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Riccardo Chailly's recording of the original version of Ameriques was something that all Varese-lovers were hungrily waiting to hear. Featuring much extra brass and wind and such exotica as steamboat whistle and crow call, the score is sonically quite different to the 1927 revision in which also the central part of the work is substantially recomposed. I think most Varese-lovers would agree that the 1927 version of the score is superior to the the original: cutting so much material from the central section of the work, in particular many passages for off-stage brass, arguably gives the piece a more powerful sense of direction. Moreover, I find the Decca recording problematic in several respects: textures are often thick and muddied, internal detail often gets lost especially with some of Chailly's over-fast tempi, the basslines are often not clear enough and the percussion just don't register in all their incredible variety.
Boulez knows this score well. He knows that every detail needs to be heard. He knows that the power and sheer inexorability of the final section of the work (truly one the most AMAZING climaxes in all music) comes over best with a steady and very precise rhythm. The great crashes on timpani and bass drum are spectacular in Boulez' new recording; compare with Chailly and you'll hear what I mean; everything kind of gets lost in the stew. Boulez also gives the strings their prominence so we can finally appreciate all of Varese's innovations in his writing for these instruments.
In Arcana, Boulez's speeds are, once again, slightly broader than on his earlier recording. An emphasis on clarity and detail lets us hear the score anew- I welcome Boulez' less histrionic apparoach in this score- it's great it to not have the piece played like a 50's sci-fi soundtrack or The Rite of Spring part II.
Boulez' authority in Deserts cannot be questioned; maybe I'm a little ambivalent about the electronic interpolations being left out here, but I guess they are comprimised by the limitations of the master and therefore seriously 'date' the piece. Only Ionisation is probably better with Chailly- the ASKO Ensemble seem to relish the piece more than the percussionists of the CSO and there are some moments of questionable ensemble. (interestingly they were also there in Boulez' NYP recording) But stick with Boulez in the big works, he does them full justice.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x8ddfa4b0) out of 5 stars Boulez loves and understands this music -- maybe we can, too 12 Sept. 2008
By Santa Fe Listener - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Varese isn't a hard lsiten if you already know and love Messiaen. Both composer's adopted Stravinsky's barbaaric vocabulary from The Rite of Spring and then carried it into new, highly personal territory. But the number of listeners who want to trample that luxuriant jungle may be select. I agree with Mark Leach that Boulez enters Varese's sound world with color in mind, but that's more true, actually, of the Cahilly recording on Decca that the Amazon reviewer extols: it's a banquet of orchestral timbres and hues. Boulez finds more than that in Ameriques, for example, where he makes the chaos organized and builds definite peaks and valleys. DG's recording is clear and has plenty of impact, but it does fall short of Decca's sonic spectacular for Chailly.

I had steered clear of Varese, finding his massive assaults too exhausting. Boulez's obvious love for this music and his penetrating performances turned me around. Varese, I now agree, is an original who needs to be met on his own terms, which include melody and dance rhythms -- we aren't totally awash in noisemaking, despite the notorious fire siren in Ameriques (actually, that siren makes quite an effective musical instrument as used by Boulez -- it makes a quietly erie, haunting effect). I became willing to give Varese a second listen after a rousing live performance of Ameriques in London this summer-- the piece can bring an audience to it feet -- but in the end his more delicate scores, Deserts and Ionisation, are probably a better place to start. As done by Boulez, they sound like unique masterpieces that also don't rely on nerve-racking ferocity.
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