Podcast: Livre pour Quatuor Diotima

featuring Yun Peng Zhao from Quatuor Diotima. Listen here or in iTunes, or an abridged Chinese version here

But when you listen to the twentieth century, maybe just give up this habit, for example, nice melody. For example, some drama… maybe just let [it] go… It’s a little bit like when you appreciate a painting when you go to the modern arts exhibitions, and okay, you’re faced with a painting, but I think everyone will have a different feeling, everyone will have a different understanding, and it’s not necessary to have the same. The most important thing to have is to have a personal satisfaction when you listen to this sort of piece.

Yun Peng Zhao, on Boulez’s Livre pour Quatuor

Back toward the beginning of the year, I wrote an article about Boulez’s Livre pour Quatuor, his only work for string quartet. This was the 1962 version, more than half a decade ago, and I must admit that for various reasons, it was a very challenging work to explore. For one, it’s long. Even without the (at the time incomplete) fourth movement, it still comes to over 40 minutes. I also didn’t have a copy of the score, and with such a modern idiom as Boulez was working in, it’d have been nice to follow along in a score. But no.

On the very same week that that article was published, I saw the first advertisement for the Quatuor Diotima’s then rather-far-off concert in September, where they’d be premiering the Boulez quartet in Taiwan. What a coincidence, non?

One thing leads to another, and I decide to dedicate July to some early works of the Darmstadt School, the most recent only reaching up to the late ’50s. Boulez again comes to mind, and I was able to get my hands on the scores of all three pieces 0f his that I wrote about in July. I was fascinated. Enthralled. Captivated. And I had also been quite skeptical.

I was able to get in touch with the Diotima Quartet, but it wasn’t until Yun Peng Zhao and I were actually speaking that I remembered I’d actually read this article about their experience being able to meet and work with Boulez himself.  I’d even included it in my article about the quartet, I think. In any case, in this episode, you’ll hear my tenuously veiled epiphany at making (again) this connection.

So yes, the Quatuor Diotima is coming to Taiwan to premiere their own new version of the Livre pour Quatuor in the composer’s hand, with his approval, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the 1962 version (recorded by Quatuor Parisii, perhaps among others) has never been performed here either.

Mr. Zhao has informed, compelling, and sympathetic things to say about modern music, be it Boulez or Schoenberg or whoever else. You have to have some conviction about the music you’re playing, no matter what it is, and I’d say that’s especially the case with something that tends to be so challenging for audiences.

Don’t miss this (literally) historic concert if you’re in (my) town, September 13 at the National Concert Hall. Tickets can be purchased here. It’s a rarity I can cover something happening in my own area, so if you’re not in this part of the world, sorry not sorry.

There’s more coming up from this conversation, including a Chinese version of the conversation. It’s very abridged, and there may have been some internet issues, but it’s the first and likely last Chinese episode of the podcast there will be, so stay tuned for that.

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