Pierre Boulez’ Notations are based on twelve short piano pieces from his student days which the composer and conductor has been realising in orchestration since 1985. They make up a sensually and analytically brilliant “work in progress”. Boulez has said about his interest in these orchestra arrangements, which have been carried out over a long period of time and still have not been concluded: “Like Proust, I like very much to use the same material again and again without the connections being evident. I only rarely write pieces where I can say – good, that’s done.”
In this concert, the Berliner Philharmoniker under Simon Rattle, whose connection to Pierre Boulez goes back to his time as a student, perform a selection of those Notations which already exist in an orchestra version. One could also talk about a “work in progress” with many Bruckner symphonies, considering the numerous revisions that the composer made to his works (usually not initiated by him).
Against this background, it must have been tremendously gratifying for Bruckner that the premiere of his Seventh Symphony was finally given the resounding success for which he had hoped for much of his life. They turned out to be enthusiastic even in Vienna: “Already after the first movement 5-6 rousing curtain calls, and so it went on, after the Finale endless, rapturous enthusiasm and curtain calls, a laurel wreath from the Wagner Society and banquet.” (Bruckner) So it’s no wonder that the Seventh was spared the otherwise obligatory “suggestions for improvements” from his friends and that only one version of it exists.