WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Xenakis: Psappha, Okho, Rebonds / Carniero, Rich, Gibson

Release Date: 01/11/2005 
Label:  Zig Zag   Catalog #: 40901   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Iannis Xenakis
Performer:  Pedro CarnieroStephen John GibsonMatthew Rich
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This disc is most notable for its format. As you can tell, the timing is quite short, but when one opens the package (a foldout format rather than jewel box), one finds that one side is CD, the other DVD. The latter is short as well (only about 15 minutes, two-thirds of which is a brief “making of” the documentary and the remainder a video of Rebonds B ), but the format suggests a natural extension of classical music presentation in this multimedia age, much more easy to use than having a CD ROM only playable on a computer, for example. As the first such foray I’ve encountered, I salute Zig Zag.
This is a collection of all Xenakis’s solo percussion pieces, along with one for small ensemble. Xenakis’s use of percussion is “elemental,” in that it concentrates mostly in the sound of rhythmic attacks in sonic space. These are grouped according to mathematical formulas, but the result tends to sound “universal,” not cerebral. It’s as though an ancient tribal music of great sophistication were uncovered. A prime example (using ethnic instruments, in fact) is Okho for three djembes (West African drum) and what the composer calls “a very large African membranophone”—essentially a bass drum. It dates from 1989 and has a lightness of touch that makes it one of Xenakis’s “grooviest” pieces. Rebonds A & B (1987–89) is a genuine masterpiece, already one of the staples of the solo percussion repertoire. The two pieces are always performed together, but the order is up the player. A consists of a demonic “densification” of an initially spare and simple rhythmic figure, moving to an impossible surfeit of activity. B is dominated by an infectious riff on bongos and tom-toms, interspersed with rippling woodblock-writing. Psappha (1975) was Xenakis’s breakthrough work for percussion, its open instrumentation making it easier to hear the music as a series of attack points on a grid, which form over time into shifting patterns (Makis Solomos’s notes here seem at first impenetrable, but if one isn’t fazed by the equations, one can eventually understand what’s going on). It culminates with what could easily be a grand, crazy rock drum solo.

Pedro Carneiro is a young (29) performer with technique to burn, and he shows great mastery of this music. But I have a reservation. His version of both Rebonds is faster than any I’ve ever heard. He can certainly handle the material at this pace, but something is also lost in the process. Both versions have a demonic insistence that needs enough space to hear the attack of each note distinctly, as well as part of a pattern. If it goes too fast, it becomes lighter and more dance-like, and for me, especially with Rebonds B, this contradicts its nature, which I feel is more like a march. All these performances have lightness, and while they’re exhilarating, I just don’t feel they have the savagery inherent in Xenakis’s work. (For a performance more in tune with my taste, I recommend Robert Macewan’s on Mode 53, another all-Xenakis program.)

Despite this critique, I can still recommend this: (1) for having so many Xenakis percussion works on one disc; (2) for the quality of the recording, which is both spectacularly full and intimate; and (3) for the unusual format.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
This package includes 1 CD and a DVD. Read less

Works on This Recording

Psappha by Iannis Xenakis
Performer:  Pedro Carniero (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1975; Paris, France 
Length: 12 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Okho by Iannis Xenakis
Performer:  Stephen John Gibson (Djembe), Matthew Rich (Djembe), Pedro Carniero (Djembe)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1989; Paris, France 
Length: 12 Minutes 35 Secs. 
Rebons by Iannis Xenakis
Performer:  Pedro Carniero (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1987-1989 
Length: 11 Minutes 23 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title