C1565. BRUNO MADERNA Cond. NDR S.O., Hamburg, w.Karlheinz Stockhausen (tape): Deserts for Orchestra and electronic tape (Varese), German premiere performance, 8 Dec., 1954; another performance, w.Royal Concertgebouw Orch., 17 April, 1966; rehearsals, w.Pierre Boulez Cond.RTF S.O. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-568. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“This powerfully moving work, created between 1950 and 1954, was the first piece for magnetic tape - two-tracks of ‘organized sound’ - and orchestra. Possibly first conceived when Varese lived in the deserts of New Mexico in the mid-1930s, it was imagined to be a score to which a film would have been subsequently made - a film consisting of images of the deserts of Earth, of the sea (vast distances under the water), of outer space (galaxies, etc.), but above all, the deserts in the mind of humankind - especially a memory of the terrors and agonies from the world wars of the first half of the twentieth century, including concentration camps, atomic warfare, and their continuing resonances. The taped music (originally planned for an unrealized work called ‘Trinum’) primarily presents those images in three interpolations that separate the music for the acoustic orchestra - winds, brass, a resonant piano, and five groups of percussion. This orchestra part expresses the gradual advance of mankind toward spiritual sunlight. The orchestra music is built from intense aggregates of sound, rather than scales for melody, and rhythm is treated not as a continuous pulse, but as a support for the sound-form, rhythm as a vibration of intensity. Of course, this highly dramatic work, in touch with the deeper, repressed emotions of world society at the time it was created (and powerful still), caused protest and violent reactions in many concert halls. It is now recognized as an exceptional example of truly humanistic music.”
- ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, allmusic.com
“Bruno Maderna, like his close friend and fellow avant garde composer Pierre Boulez, had in recent years become a conductor of international reputation. Since his debut here in 1970 conducting Mercadante's opera II GIURAMENTO at the Juilliard School, Mr. Maderna had led the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Symphony and the Detroit Symphony. In Europe he had conducted widely, including the London Symphony, the B.B.C. Symphony and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. For the last two years of his life he was music director of the Italian Radio in Milan.
Mr. Maderna did not put great stock in his, or anyone's, success on the podium. ‘The era of the star conductor is finished’, he told a NEW YORK TIMES interviewer in 1972. In place of that phenomenon we must have, he contended, composer-conductors who could guide the musical life of their communities. His ideal in this respect was Mr. Boulez, the New York Philharmonic's music director.
Mr. Maderna, who was born in Venice, made his New York City Opera debut [in 1972] conducting a new production of DON GIOVANNI.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 14 Nov., 1973