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Scelsi: Chamber Music / Ensemble Avantgarde

Scelsi / Ensemble Avantgarde
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog #: 6131802   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Giacinto Scelsi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Avantgarde
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

SCELSI Ko-Lho 1. Quattro Illustrazioni 2. Dithome 3. Hyxos 4. Xnoybis 5. To The Master 6 1,4 Ralf Mielke (fl); 1 Matthias Kreher (cl); 3,6 Read more class="ARIAL12">Christian Giger (vc); 5 Andreas Seidel (vn); 2 Josef Christof, 6 Steffen Schleiermacher (pn); 4 Stefan Stopora (perc) MDG 613 18022 (78:38)

Even among the individualistic, nonconformist European composers who came to prominence post-World War II such as Stockhausen and Xenakis, Giacinto Scelsi (1905–1988) was an exceptional, unfashionable figure. That is to say, he was neither a card-carrying serialist nor a radical systematic theorist, but rather a kind of musical mystic who, through his travels throughout Asia and India and the study of their indigenous musics and philosophies, gradually came to see composition as a means to experience what he believed to be a cosmic spirituality. His earliest works show him to be experimenting with elements of serialism in a personal manner, but soon he had shifted to exotic modes, often using improvisation as a compositional tool, and eventually he would explore variants of pitch (including microtones) and instrumental timbre with a concentrated, ritualized focus. This attractive collection of works from Germany’s Ensemble Avantgarde offers examples of several of his compositional viewpoints, but is just the tip of the iceberg.

The oldest work here is the Quattro Illustrazioni (1953) for solo piano, intended to “illustrate” four of the spiritual and physical manifestations of the Hindu god Vishnu. The music, with elements reminiscent at times of Debussy and Messiaen, alternates between chord clusters and modal contours, repetitious patterns and rhythmic motifs, Impressionist and Expressionist tensions. Within two years the Asian influence was even stronger on Scelsi, and Hyxos (1955), for flute and gongs, conveys a poised, pastoral, ritualistic atmosphere. The solo cello Dithome (1957), on the other hand, begins with a dramatic, almost Romantic, melodic statement, but over its nearly 17 minutes becomes obsessed with slight pitch deviations and rich tonal resonance. Xnoybis (1964) for solo violin extends this perspective into an even more tightly controlled ebb-and-flow of drones and microtones. The latter’s austerity is somewhat relieved by the breath-tinged colors of intertwined flute and clarinet in Ko-Lho (1976). To conclude, we are given a transcribed sample of one of Scelsi’s improvised duets with cellist Victoria Parr, To the Master (1974), where the piano is supportive of the cello’s modal excursions.

The members of Ensemble Avantgarde perform Scelsi’s intense, esoteric scores with devotion and commitment. If you are unfamiliar with the composer, this is a good place to start, and if you are intrigued by what you hear there are collections of the solo piano and orchestral music on Mode, the chamber music on CPO and Kairos.

FANFARE: Art Lange
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Works on This Recording

Ko-lho by Giacinto Scelsi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Avantgarde
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; Italy 
Xnoybis by Giacinto Scelsi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Avantgarde
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1964; Italy 
To the Master by Giacinto Scelsi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Avantgarde
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1974 
Illustrazioni (4) by Giacinto Scelsi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Avantgarde
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953 
Hyxos by Giacinto Scelsi
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Avantgarde
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; Italy 

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