Press Release

Pierre Boulez’s Rarely Performed Spatial Masterpiece Répons To Be Staged as it was Originally Intended For the First Time In Over a Decade in North America

New York, NY
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Unprecedented Performance at Park Avenue Armory Fully Realizes the Demanding Work and Honors the Visionary Composer One Year After His Passing

Conducted by Matthias Pintscher with Ensemble intercontemporain and IRCAM,both created by Boulez

October 6 – 7, 2017

This October, Park Avenue Armory honors the visionary work of composer Pierre Boulez in a rare staging of his spatial masterpiece Répons with the Ensemble intercontemporain, its Musical Director Matthias Pintscher, IRCAM, and six soloists from the Ensemble. Utilizing the vast and open space of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, the Armory will present an unprecedented realization of the work in its demanding configuration, positioning the Ensemble in the center of the audience as they, in turn, are surrounded by soloists and intricate amplification. The composition will also be played twice in succession each evening, with audience members switching seats to hear the work from different locations, changing the sonic dimensions and spatial relationship of their experience. Répons marks the first New York performance of a major work by Boulez since his passing in early 2016, and the first time in over a decade that this masterpiece has been staged as it was originally intended in North America.

“Boulez was ahead of his time, fighting for contemporary music in a world that resisted letting go of its nostalgia for the past,” said Pierre Audi, Artistic Director of Park Avenue Armory. “Répons epitomizes his audacity in its configuration that overturns the traditional concert format and in its use of technology. But it also harkens to something deeper—his love of music and the basic questions of perception and sound. We are humbled to present this magnum opus at the Armory.”

French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez helped blaze a radical new trail in classical music during the 20th century, composing audacious, innovative scores that challenged convention.Written and reworked by Boulez from 1981 through 1984 for the Ensemble intercontemporain, Répons is the first he created alongside IRCAM—the leading music research laboratory he founded in 1970. It is celebrated for extending a musical idea born-and-used in the instrumental realm into the world of electronics—calling for an unprecedented amount of technology provided by the lab including loudspeakers, stereo equalizers, audio lines, and digital equipment from computers to synthesizers and more. The 45-minute-long work combines six instrumental soloists, chamber ensemble, computer-generated sounds, and live electronic manipulations of those sounds, and explores one of the oldest musical forms—the call-and-response pattern—by creating a dialogue between the soloists, the chamber ensemble, the electronic sounds, and the digitally spatialized sounds of the soloists created live. Physically separating the soloists and the Ensemble, Répons explores the spatial elements of music and the relationship between one and many. It is also one of the first works to use digital technology to transform sounds made by the soloists while performing.

“The Armory has always sought to present the work of artists who defy categorization and who push their respective fields forward into new realms. Boulez was that artist and his work Répons demands a space like the Wade Thompson Drill Hall, which enables visions that break through tradition to finally come to fruition,” said Rebecca Robertson, Executive Producer and President of Park Avenue Armory. “We hope Répons will provide an opportunity for the public to honor this pioneering composer, who had lasting influence as a conductor and composer of music in New York, nationally and internationally, and whose work will continue to impact the arts into the future.”

In the Armory staging, the audience will be seated in a square-formation surrounding, and at eye level with the Ensemble. The six soloists will perform on elevated points behind the audience, who are also surrounded by IRCAM amplification and an ambient lighting design by Urs Schönebaum, heightening the listening experience and echoing the call-and-response pattern. Following the first performance of the work, audience members will be given a new seat within the Drill Hall, and the work will be played again. This enables the audience to experience various sonic dimensions of Boulez’s work, including the alternation between solo and collective playing and the movement of sound in the space based on the differing location of the listener.

Boulez is renowned for his over six decades of music making in addition to a conducting career that had far-reaching effects on the musical landscape of the United States, Britain, and Europe. During his lifetime, he held the titles of Musical Director at the New York Philharmonic and Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London, and he created a close relationship with American and European orchestras. In the mid-1970s, he also created and directed the experimental IRCAM and the Ensemble intercontemporain, which, under his leadership, became two of the world’s most important contemporary music ensembles. Boulez toured with Ensemble intercontemporain as its conductor until 1992 and continued as president until his passing.

Répons is part of Park Avenue Armory’s 2017 artistic season and follows such recent productions as Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, a multi-channel cinematic installation featuring Cate Blanchett; eight-time Drama Desk-nominated play The Hairy Ape,directed by Richard Jones and starring Bobby Cannavale; FLEXN Evolution, featuringdance performance and a series of conversations co-directed by flex pioneer Reggie (Reg Rocc) Gray and Peter Sellars exploring critical issues of social justice; and Hansel & Gretel, a new commission by Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, and Ai Weiwei that transforms and activates the Drill Hall to explore the meaning of publicly shared space in the era of surveillance. 

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Pierre Boulez composing Répons. Photo by Marion Kalter, AKG Images

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