> SCELSI String Quartet 4 etc 0012162KAI [HC]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Giacinto SCELSI (1905 Ė 1988)
String Quartet No.4 (1964)
Elohim (1965/7)
Duo for Violin and Cello (1965)
Anagamin (1965)
Maknongan (1976)
Natura renovatur (1967)

Streichquartett des Klangforum Wien; Annette Bik (violin); Andreas Lindenbaum (cello); Uli Fussenegger (double bass); Klangforum Wien; Hans Zender
Recorded: Casino Zögernitz, Wien, June 1997 (String Quartet No.4, Duo); Schottenstift, Wien, November 1995 (Maknongan) and Bonn, November 1995
KAIROS 0012162KAI [58:59]


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"...thus it seems that sound is more important..."

"If you play a sound for a very long time, it grows. It becomes so big that you start to hear many more harmonies, and it becomes bigger inside ... all possible sounds are contained in this sound from the start ..."

These words by Scelsi, quoted in the otherwise uninformative notes, very aptly describe Scelsiís approach to music which he often saw as an exploration of isolated sounds. This was already quite clear in one of his early works, Quattro Pezzi (ciascuno su una nota sola) of 1959, the title of which is self-explanatory.

All the pieces in this compilation obviously adhere to Scelsiís single-minded approach. All, but Maknongan of 1976, were composed between 1964 and 1967, and clearly reflect Scelsiís preoccupations in sound exploration. In all these pieces there is very little, if any, by way of melodic or rhythmical phrases. The music is generally built on a few chosen pitches and variety is achieved by ways of dynamic changes, varied length of note and different ways of "attacking" the sound. The forces involved range from violin and cello in Duo (1965), string quartet to small string orchestra in Elohim (1965/7), Anagamin (1965) and Natura renovatur (1967). However the end result often sounds the same and the whole leaves a somewhat monotonous impression. Scelsiís orchestral music available on ACCORD (200402, 200612 and 201112) has more variety and colour, and may be a better introduction to this composerís single-minded musical thinking. However Maknongan of 1976 is slightly different even if globally it shares many characteristics of the earlier pieces. There may be more variety and there is even some defiant attempt at melody, no matter how simplified this may be, and this is probably due to the fact that this piece may be performed either by a solo bass voice or a solo double bass.

Scelsi was unquestionably a highly original personality, both musically and as a man, whose idiosyncratic music can equally fascinate or irritate depending on oneís frame of mind. He certainly was a considerable artist who probably deserves neither the excessive praise he received from certain circles nor the disdainful neglect in which he was held by others.

For all I can judge, all these pieces receive dedicated, carefully prepared and convincing readings. This release provides for a fine survey of Scelsiís highly original output. However to those who are not sure about Scelsiís music, I would suggest listening to the ACCORD recordings of his orchestral music excellently performed by Jürg Wyttenbach.

Hubert Culot

See also review by Peter Grham Woolf

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