CSO’s MusicNOW series gets another boost

Pierre Boulez in 2004
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Pierre Boulez garners praise in Chicago.

Pierre Boulez is a shot in the arm for both the players on the stage and the large audience in the house. Despite the efforts of MusicNOW principal conductor Cliff Colnot, programming of the series under current CSO composers-in-residence Osvaldo Golijov and Mark-Anthony Turnage has not always been the most challenging, sometimes even veering into new-music easy listening.

Just as he does at Orchestra Hall with the big band, Boulez, who turns 84 this month, reminds us that serious need not be morose. Far from it. The concert he curated and led Monday night, featuring an essential 1975 score by Elliott Carter and recent works by French and German Boulez proteges, showed that rigor, discipline and edginess captivate much more than endless loops and post-modern noodling.

Despite his name and ancestry, Bruno Montovani, 34, is French to the core, and his 2005, 15-minute “Streets” for 10 players is a brilliant update on Edgard Varese’s pioneering works inspired by sounds of the big city. Tightly wound and carefully composed, Montovani’s music is rhythmically propulsive and laced with surprising turns.

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