I’ve watched Pierre Boulez conduct the Cleveland Orchestra this week and last, from the front few rows of Severence Hall. Many things that I saw amazed me, not least of which was this: at eighty-five, he can conduct without wearing glasses. I’m sure he has all of these scores memorized to some extent. In fact, I noticed him flip a page during the opening viola soli of the Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth when he hadn’t once taken his eyes off the players–so apparently he even has the page turns memorized. But he did have a score in front of him for every piece on both last week’s all-French program and this week’s all-Mahler program.
Having been cursed with what my optometrist calls “Old Lady Eyes,” I have struggled for some time with the problem of finding the perfect bifocals that allow one to see clearly both other players sitting at various distances across the stage and the music two feet or so away. Still, I can’t imagine being eighty-five and not needing some sort of reading glasses to see the score.
But perhaps I’m just overly anxious for evidence that supports my brewing hypothesis that both Boulez and Elliott Carter are immortal.