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Varèse: The Complete Works / Chailly, Asko Ensemble, Et Al


Release Date: 09/15/1998 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 460208   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Edgard VarèseSarah LeonardMireille DelunschFrançois Kerdoncuff,   ... 
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw OrchestraASKO EnsemblePrague Philharmonic Chorus Men
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 2 Hours 31 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



Gramophone Magazine Award Winner 1998

This set is announced as “The Complete Works” of Edgard Varèse, which, in the context of the listed comparisons, is certainly true. Moreover, with the Boulez recordings, made over the period 1977-83, now sounding their age and Nagano’s survey lacking sheer dynamic presence, Chailly sets new standards for an overall collection.

‘Complete’ requires clarification. Excluded are the electronic interlude, La procession du Vergès, from the 1955 film Around and About Joan Mirò (is this still extant?) and the 1947 Etude Varèse wrote as preparation for his unrealized Espace project – material from which, according to Chou
Read more Wen-Chung, found its way into later works. Successively Varèse’s pupil, amanuensis and executor, Professor Chou would appear ideally placed to advise on a project of this nature. Yet it does seem surprising to omit the Etude, completed, performed and apparently extant, while including Tuning Up, which Varèse never realized as such, and Dance for Burgess, which does not exist in a definitive score. That said, the former is an ingenious skit on the orchestral machine, while the latter is an unlikely take on the Broadway dance number: the light they shed on Varèse’s preoccupations in the late 1940s makes their inclusion worth while.

At two-and-a-half hours’ duration, Varèse’s output is similar in length to the mature works of Webern, though more akin to Ruggles in its solitary grandeur. There now seems little hope of early works being unearthed, as these were most likely destroyed by the composer prior to sailing for New York in 1915. The accidental survival of the song Un grand sommeil noir (a more restrained setting than Ravel’s) offers a glimpse of this pre-history and, in Antony Beaumont’s orchestration, an insight into its likely sound world.

In the ensemble pieces from the 1920s and early 1930s, Chailly is responsive not only to dynamic extremes, but also tonal shading. Works such as Octandre and Intégrales require scrupulous attention to balance if they are to sound more than crudely aggressive: Chailly secures this without sacrificing physical impact – witness the explosive Hyperprism. He brings out some exquisite harmonic subtleties in Offrandes, Sarah Leonard projecting the texts’ surreal imagery with admirable poise. The fugitive opening bars of Ionisation sound slightly muted in the recorded ambience, though not the cascading tuned percussion towards the close. The instrumentational problems of Ecuatorial are at last vindicated, allowing Varèse’s inspired combination of brass and electronic keyboards to register with awesome power. Chailly opts for the solo bass, but a unison chorus would have heightened the dramatic impact still further.

Ameriques, the true intersection of romanticism and modernism, is performed in the original 1921 version, with its even more extravagant orchestral demands and (from 13'36 to 17'48) bizarre reminiscences of The Rite of Spring and Schoenberg’s Five Orchestral Pieces, understandably replaced in the revision (Dohnanyi’s superbly recorded if aloof account makes for illuminating comparison). Arcana was recorded back in 1992: rehearing it confirms that while Chailly lacks Boulez’s implacability, he probes beyond the work’s vast dynamic contours far more deeply than either Mehta or the disappointingly anaemic Slatkin (a reissue of Martinon’s electrifying Chicago reading on RCA, 7/67, is long overdue).

No one but Varèse has drawn such sustained eloquence from an ensemble of wind and percussion, or invested such emotional power in the primitive electronic medium of the early 1950s. Déserts juxtaposes them in a score which marks the culmination of his search for new means of expression. The opening now seems a poignant evocation of humanity in the atomic age, the ending is resigned but not bitter. The tape interludes in Chailly’s performance have a startling clarity (far superior to what sound like remixes on the Nagano recording, while Boulez omits them entirely), as does the Poème électronique, Varèse’s untypical but exhilarating contribution to the 1958 Brussels World Fair. The unfinished Nocturnal, with its vocal stylizations and belated return of string timbre, demonstrates a continuing vitality that only time could extinguish.

Varèse has had a significant impact on post-war musical culture, with figures as diverse as Stockhausen, Charlie Parker and Frank Zappa acknowledging his influence. Chailly’s recordings demonstrate, in unequivocal terms, why this music will continue to provoke and inspire future generations.

--Gramophone Magazine Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Amériques by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1918-21; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/1996 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 24 Minutes 38 Secs. 
2. Déserts by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: ?1950-54; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1997 
Venue:  Musikcentrum Vredenberg, Utrecht 
Length: 24 Minutes 18 Secs. 
3. Ionisation by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1931; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1997 
Venue:  Musikcentrum Vredenberg, Utrecht 
Length: 5 Minutes 51 Secs. 
4. Arcana by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925-1927; USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1992 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 18 Minutes 22 Secs. 
5. Hyperprism by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Written: 1922-3 
Date of Recording: 05/1997 
Venue:  Musikcentrum Vredenberg, Utrecht 
Length: 4 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: This work was revised by Richard Saks. 
6. Tuning Up! by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 5 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Notes: This work was reconstructed by Chou Wen-chung. 
7. Poème électronique by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Edgard Varèse (Electronics)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957-1958 
Length: 8 Minutes 2 Secs. 
8. Nocturnal by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Sarah Leonard (Soprano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,  Prague Philharmonic Chorus Men
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; USA 
Date of Recording: 12/1996 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 10 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Language: English 
9. Un grand sommeil noir by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Mireille Delunsch (Soprano), François Kerdoncuff (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1906; France 
Date of Recording: 5/1998 
Venue:  Small Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs. 
Language: French 
Notes: Orchestrated: Antony Beaumont 
10. Un grand sommeil noir by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Mireille Delunsch (Soprano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1906; France 
Date of Recording: 5/1998 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 4 Minutes 8 Secs. 
Language: French 
Notes: Orchestrated: Antony Beaumont 
11. Offrandes by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Sarah Leonard (Soprano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; New York, USA 
Date of Recording: 04/1996 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 6 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Language: French 
12. Octandre by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Written: 1923 
Date of Recording: 05/1997 
Venue:  Musikcentrum Vredenberg, Utrecht 
Length: 6 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: This work was revised by Chou Wen-chung. 
13. Intégrales by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Written: 1924-5 
Date of Recording: 04/1996 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 10 Minutes 18 Secs. 
Notes: This work was revised by Chou Wen-chung. 
14. Ecuatorial by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Kevin Deas (Bass)
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1934; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1997 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 11 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
15. Density 21.5 by Edgard Varèse
Performer:  Jacques Zoon (Flute)
Written: 1936 
Date of Recording: 06/1997 
Venue:  Henry Wood Hall, London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 5 Secs. 
16. Dance for Burgess by Edgard Varèse
Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly
Orchestra/Ensemble:  ASKO Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949; USA 
Date of Recording: 05/1998 
Venue:  Great Hall, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam 
Length: 1 Minutes 48 Secs. 

Sound Samples

Tuning up
Amériques - Original version. Ed. Professor Chou Wen-Chung
Poème Electronique
Arcana
Nocturnal - original version
Un grand sommeil noir - Orchestral version arr. Antony Beaumont
Un grand sommeil noir - Version for voice & piano
Offrandes: 1. Chanson de Là-haut (poem by Vincente Huidobro)
Offrandes: 2. La croix du sud (poem by José Juan Tablada)
Hyperprism - Revised Richard Sarks 1986
Octandre - Rev. & Ed. Chou Wen-Chung 1980: 1. Assez lent
Octandre - Rev. & Ed. Chou Wen-Chung 1980: 2. Très vif et nerveux
Octandre - Rev. & Ed. Chou Wen-Chung 1980: 3. Grave/Animé et jubilatoire
Intégrales - Revised & Ed. Chou Wen-Chung 1980
Ecuatorial - Corrections from original m/s by Chou Wen-Chung
Ionisation
Density 21.5
Déserts: Part 1
Déserts: 1st Interpolation of organised sound
Déserts: Part 2
Déserts: 2nd Interpolation of organised sound
Déserts: Part 3
Déserts: 3rd Interpolation of organised sound
Déserts: Part 4
Dance for Burgess

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