By Andrew Clements
From the Guardian - Friday June 2, 2006
In 1954 Pierre Boulez began a series of new-music concerts in Paris, presenting them in the Théatre Marigny, where he worked as music director for Jean-Louis Barrault's theatre company. He called his venture Le Domaine Musical, and the concerts ran for more than a decade, not only revolutionising Parisian musical life but giving Boulez the opportunity to refine his conducting technique and perfect his programme planning. These two fascinating four-disc sets document the history of the Domaine Musical with a mixture of live concert recordings and studio sessions based upon Marigny performances, many of them conducted by Boulez himself.
Volume 1 is marginally the more valuable since, as well as a recording of a concert with works by Stockhausen, Berio, Boulez and Messiaen that was held in 1964, there are discs devoted to Boulez, to earlier French music and to a varied collection of contemporary composers including Kagel and Nono. The performances feature many of the leading contemporary-music interpreters of that time - the mezzo Jeanne Deroubaix is the soloist in Boulez's Le Marteau sans Maître, while the incomparable flautist Severino Gazzelloni plays Debussy, Varèse and Boulez and the pianist Yvonne Loriod tackles Berg, Webern, Henze and Boulez's Second Sonata.
Volume 2 is devoted to Stravinsky and the composers of the second Viennese school, whose works were the bedrock of the Domaine programmes. Though more modern performances may be better played and better recorded there is a real sense of excitement and challenge about much of what's here. Boulez conducts accounts of the Stravinsky Concertino, the burlesque Renard and Symphonies of Wind Instruments, Schoenberg's Chamber Symphony, and his unfinished Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra, as well as Webern Symphony and two Cantatas. Best of all is a wonderfully fluent account of Stravinsky's Agon from the SWR Orchestra under the underrated Hans Rosbaud. The tracks are not as scrupulously documented as they might be, but anyone interested in the history of music after the second world war will find both these sets totally compelling.