On November 19, 1992, Pierre Boulez surprised Sir Georg Solti—then the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director laureate—with a special musical birthday gift.
Sir Georg entered the stage, ready to conduct the first concert of the second week of his fall residency, but just as he stepped onto the podium to lead Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, Boulez—scheduled to lead concerts beginning the following week—entered, carrying a large score. Boulez spoke briefly to Sir Georg and the audience:
“We know about your birthday and the wonders in London, so therefore we don’t want to be behind the time in Chicago. And maybe if you have played the Siegfried Idyll [a work also composed as a birthday gift] in London, we’ve prepared another surprise for you. And I think I have a score for you—of a score by myself—and you can follow and see what mistakes we do now.”
A stagehand supplied a seat for Sir Georg, and Boulez conducted the Orchestra in the world premiere of his Dérive 3. The work is a true occasional piece, complete with trumpet fanfares and concluding with eight strikes on a wood block—one for each decade of Solti’s life—each strike counted off by Boulez himself.
At the time of the world premiere in 1992, Boulez called the work Dérive 3. He had written two other works with the same name: Dérive 1 in 1984 and Dérive 2 in 1988 (revised in 2001 and 2008). However, when we released the radio broadcast of the performance on A Tribute to Pierre Boulez (vol. 19 as part of our From the Archives series) in 2005, the name of the work was changed to Fanfare for the 80th Birthday of Sir Georg Solti.