In 1945, when Pierre Boulez was fresh out of the Paris Conservatory, anti-German feeling was entrenched in France’s music establishment. Works by natives such as Gounod and Saint-Saens were favored; music by Webern, Berg, and other leading members of the Second Viennese School was banished for its decadence (ironically, the same complaint the Nazis had lodged against it). The time was right for a revolution, and Boulez was among those who led the charge. He started the Concerts Marigny, dedicated to performing contemporary music, often under the baton of German maestros. The group rehabilitated Ravel and other half-forgotten composers from the pre-World War I generation, and it championed Messiaen, one of Boulez’s mentors. In 1956 Messiaen wrote a piece for the group, the highly idiosyncratic, mesmeric Oiseaux exotiques, which reflects his interest in birds, rhythms, and the gamelan and finds new uses for an astonishing array of wind and percussion instruments. Boulez will conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of this work, along with Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales, Roussel’s Symphony no. 3, and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto (a belated local premiere). The soloist in the Ligeti–a skillfully constructed work that’s brilliant in sonority, rich in rhythm, and tough to execute–will be Pierre-Laurent Aimard, a Boulez protege. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, and Tuesday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Pierre Boulez uncredited photo.