Considering that he used to be one of the terror names of 20th-century "difficult'' composition, the scale of the tribute is astonishing. But while it will attract cynicism in Paris, where he has wielded power over the new-music scene to the point of paralysis, the attitude of Londoners is more relaxed. That's because over here he has been conductor first, composer second. Now that his firebrand years in charge of the BBC Symphony Orchestra are well in the past, he is often regarded with genuine affection as a down-to-earth, non-maestro figure who can reveal the secrets of Stravinsky, Bartok and Berg. What he did for the performance of all these composers will not be lightly forgotten.
Each concert has a work of Boulez's own, some of them tough going, some of them positively mellow, all of them sensuous, refined and quick-thinking. Significantly, though, it's the repertoire of the early century that dominates the birthday series: Stravinsky's Petrushka and Rite of Spring, Bartok concertos and the Miraculous Mandarin ballet, gorgeous early songs by Berg, brilliant scores by Debussy and Ravel. With the LSO offering generous rehearsal times, expect a feast for the ears.
22, 24, 26, 29 Jan, 2, 5, 8, 9 Mar, Barbican Hall, EC2 (071-638 8891)Reuse content