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Salvatore SCIARRINO (b.1947)
Quaderno di strada (2003)
Otto Katzameier (baritone)
Klangforum Wien/Sylvain Cambreling.
rec. Klangforum Wien, Vienna, 8-10 February 2005. DDD
KAIROS 0012482KAI [42:27]

Sciarrino is an important, and distinctive, figure in the Italian avant-garde. The present work is a setting of thirteen brief texts (its subtitle is ’12 canti e un proverbio’, twelve songs and a proverb) for baritone and 14 instrumentalists – the booklet notes say fifteen, but only fourteen are named. It puts before its hearer fragmentary, skittering sounds, sudden changes of dynamics, as sounds loom out of silence and disappear just as quickly. There are fluttery, fugitive sounds, repetitive patterns and unexpected blasts. There are elementally simple tunes and abrupt eruptions of percussion. There are breath noises and the clatter of instrumental keys. Instruments are played in unorthodox fashions, to the extent that sometimes – without a score or sight of the performers – one is unsure how particular sounds are produced. The effect is not relaxing listening, but I, at least, find it involving and intriguing.

The thirteen brief texts range from the letters of Rilke to Italian graffiti, from Brecht to Cavafy, from the modern Italian poet Giovanni Testori to words attributed to an anonymous hunchback. All the texts are in Italian and are provided; most of them are translated - or at least paraphrased - in the booklet essay by Lothnar Knessl.

Some of the texts pose questions: "If not now, when? If not here, where? If not you, who?"; "Where did the builders go each evening when the great wall was finished?". Elsewhere there is talk of the rose’s self-destruction and of the woodworm we are urged to love, since we too shall be gnawed in our turn. The dominant tone, indeed, is of the unsettled, the anxious. But there are also occasional images of beauty, even splendour: ‘the flame vibrates from the string of the violin". All these moods are mirrored in Sciarrino’s glissandi and instrumental squeaks, in the troubled vocal line, well handled by Katzameier. Katzameier is something of a specialist in Sciarrino’s music, having taken the role of Macbeth in Sciarrino’s Macbeth: Three Nameless Acts.

I cannot honestly say that this is music to which I would want to listen every day of the week. It challenges, disturbs in a way that is akin – though not of course stylistically – to, say, Pierrot Lunaire. It has power, it has a strange beauty – as in the wonderful moment when in one piece, ‘Fior di kencùr’, the voice emerges from a background of animal and bird noises (or so it seems). Much of Quaderno di strada has the attractiveness - and the power to irritate - of the unpredictable. There are moments when its flurries of sound come close to a kind of self-parody of certain aspects of the contemporary avant-garde. The sceptical should perhaps begin with ‘Fior di kencùr’, the longest track and perhaps the most ‘conventional’. I like to think that most unprejudiced listeners would recognise the imagination and compositional skill evident here and be willing to explore – with ‘Fior di kencùr’ as their guarantee, as it were – the rest of this CD. Recommended to the adventurous, or to those who have already discovered the highly individual sound world of Sciarrino.

Glyn Pursglove



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