Lot 8
  • 8

Boulez, Pierre

25,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • Boulez, Pierre
  • Autograph manuscript of ["...explosante-fixe..."], for solo flute, signed and inscribed to Carol and Bob Frankel
  • Paper, Ink
notated in dark blue ink on up to nine staves per page, densely annotated by the composer on the free staves, with copious explanations and markings, including above the music in green ink ("Version B1"), the opening movement divided into six sections in red ink, the work comprising nine movements in all

Transitoire VII - Très rapide
Transitoire V - Modéré
1er Emprunt ORIGINEL - Très lent
Transitoire IV - Très Modéré
Transitoire VI - Rapide
Transitoire III - Assez lent
2e Emprunt ORIGINEL - Très lent
Transitoire II - lent
ORIGINEL -Très lent

signed and inscribed on verso of the last page: "To Carol & Bob Frankel, a way for them to remember me, a way for me to be in their house constantly as a silent guest. with many thanks for all their friendship. With affection P Boulez"

8 pages in all, oblong folio (c.28 x 34cm), paginated 1-7, 30-stave paper, cut at the lower edge from larger sheets, no place or date, [probably Cleveland, c.1973], browning to page 5


Given by Pierre Boulez to Carol and Robert Frankel of Cleveland OH in 1972 or 1973.  Boulez had lived in the Frankel's home whilst conducting the Cleveland Orchestra (as "musical advisor" from 1970 to 1972) and this was his parting gift to them ("as an original manuscript that he worked on when domiciled in our home") and as recorded in his inscription on the last page.


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing, where appropriate
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

UNPUBLISHED: the realization of Boulez's seminal aleatoric work ["...explosante-fixe..."] for solo flute is apparently unrecorded.  His call for chance operations means that many different realizations are possible; it is remarkable to find one wholly in the hand of the composer himself, especially so early.  Universal Edition of Vienna issued photographic reproductions of some realizations as hire copies rather than published editions.  We have traced no such reproduction of the present early version of ["...explosante-fixe..."] for solo flute.  The manuscript is visually striking because of the composer's minute and dense musical notation and elaborate annotations.

Boulez devised ["...explosante-fixe..."] in 1971 in memory of Igor Stravinsky, as a work subject to chance operations and played on an indeterminate number of instrumental combinations.  However, Boulez fuses chance operations with serialist tonal and dynamic techniques.  In its original form, the piece consisted of a set of musical cells called transitoires ("transitions") and six pages of closely-written instructions.  In this 1971 scheme, the unbarred musical notation was written in cells of two to seven staves each (Transitoires II-VII), comprising a series of complex musical figures and dynamic markings Boulez's autograph of this was published in facsimile in the British magazine Tempo no.98 (1971), along with other musical tributes to Stravinsky.  In the Tempo description, these transitoires were arranged on a large oblong sheet of music paper around a primary cell called "Originel", containing just a single E flat ("Es" in German, standing for Stravinsky).  Boulez uses a tone row (later also used in Rituel) and, through the transitoires, this strict sequence is applied to other parameters such as dynamics, articulation and playing techniques.   

The choice of instrumentation is left that the discretion of the performers, who may use any number of instruments or just one, as here.  In this case, Boulez stipulated that Transitoires II to VII should all be played, and indeed all are included in this manuscript.  The first performance in London in 17 June 1972, for flute, clarinet and trumpet, was followed by versions for septet and octet, all apparently unpublished.  In 1973, Boulez developed ["...explosante-fixe..."] into a work for solo flute, accompanied clarinet, trumpet, harp, vibraphone, violin, viola, cello and electronics, however, he quickly dispensed with the electronics.  The relationship between the transitoires outlined in Boulez's instructions in 1971 and those found in this manuscript is evidently quite complex, but the first movement Transitoire VII does begin with a sustained D-flat as in the original scheme, and an identical figuration is found in Transitoire VI both here (on page 4) and in the original scheme.