The years have seen Pierre Boulez record for CBS, Erato, EMI, and Philips, among other labels, but his most consistent and critically praised work has appeared on Deutsche Grammophon, where he has conducted the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and his own Ensemble InterContemporain in many successful performances. These ensembles are heard on this trimline, six-CD box set of Igor Stravinsky's major works, which brings together Boulez's recordings of L'oiseau de feu, Petrushka, Le Sacre du printemps, L'histoire du Soldat, the symphonies, concertos, and other works, recorded between 1980 and 1996. As one of the leading champions of modernism, first as a composer and essayist, then as a prominent conductor, Boulez is regarded as an authority on Stravinsky's oeuvre, and it is difficult to imagine many conductors who have a better understanding of the technical and stylistic issues that affect performances. Boulez is also famous for his precision and meticulousness, which make the details stand out clearly in the rhythmically complex and texturally dense orchestral scores of the ballets, and yet seem so delicate and exact in the concertos and pieces for smaller ensembles.
"Muti's Beethoven Fifth is fleet, fluid, and transparent. He shows his usual attention to details, and offers many individual touches. I especially enjoyed the horn crescendo in bar 34 of the Allegro con brio. It's not indicated in my ancient Eulenberg score but makes perfect sense in its context. …Muti achieves a clarity and rhythmic definition found only in the finest interpretations…The playing of the Philadelphia Orchestra is nothing short of spectacular. The fast string triplets from measure 132 in the final movement are not only accurate but beautifully played with full tone.
Cherubini’s major sacred works are generally quite marvelous. The two Requiems have a distinguished history on disc. Toscanini recorded the C minor, Markevitch the D minor, and my colleague David Vernier praised the recent release of the C minor piece on Carus. They are both truly excellent: grave and austere, but also dynamic, moving, and well worth hearing. The same is certainly true of the large-scale Masses: the Missa solemnis in D minor and E major and the Mass in F are especially memorable. Their grandeur never strains for effect and is always leavened with the composer’s Italian lyricism. Cherubini may not have been well-treated by history, but he knew what he was doing.