“Music Lessons, the translation of the lectures [Boulez] gave at the Collège de France between 1976 and 1995, provides English-language readers with the fullest document yet of the mature Boulez’s musical thought: his approach to composition, his analysis of his predecessors’ work, and his attitudes toward many sectors of twentieth-century musical activity. It is an important publication, especially because I believe it casts doubt on the notion that Boulez grew wiser or more generous with age. This book embodies his every paradox: he is both discerning and myopic, clever and needlessly cruel, capable of moments of thrilling clarity as well as long stretches full of bland, arid tautologies. His contradictions are the contradictions of the late-twentieth-century European avant-garde; his narrowness became the narrowness of a generation. As his era recedes, it feels newly possible to take stock of both his strengths and his limitations.”
Full article in the New York Review of Books.