Pierre Boulez, one of the seminal figures of contemporary music, may also be its most eloquent defender. When he interprets Schoenberg, Bartok, or even his own work, he does so with clarity and intellectual vigor. Listen to a performance conducted by him and you’re apt to gain insights into, say, the method behind serialism’s seeming arbitrariness. At these CSO concerts, concluding his latest visit, maestro Boulez will conduct an all-Stravinsky program that shows the far-ranging talent of the titan of modernism. The King of the Stars, a polytonal cantata for male chorus and orchestra that’s hardly ever performed nowadays, was composed in 1911 when its composer was under the transitory sway of Schoenberg’s path-breaking Pierrot lunaire. The Rite of Spring, which premiered two years later, is of course Stravinsky’s own revolutionary salvo, perhaps the most notorious piece of music ever written. The other two works on the program were both written in 1956 and offer proof positive that Stravinsky was just as inventive at age 74. One is the set of choral variations on Bach’s Vom Himmel hoch, a crafty tribute to late Baroque polyphony. The other is Agon (which means “contest” in Greek), an austere, rhythmically complex ballet score written for Balanchine to choreograph. It was the last of Stravinsky’s memorable contributions to dance. Be sure to make time for the preconcert chat with Boulez; he’s a witty, endearing, and opinionated talker. Friday, 1:30 PM, and Saturday, 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 435-6666 or 435-8122.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul L. Meredith.