Giacinto SCELSI (1905-1988)
Collection - Vol. 4
Preludes (12), Series 1 (1936-1940) [18:36]
Variazioni E Fuga (1940) [15:17]
Capriccio (1935) [4:42]
Poemi (4) (1936-1939) [20:15]
Rotativa (1930) [5:47]
Donna Amato (piano)
rec. Alumni Concert Hall, College of Fine Arts, Carnegie Mellon University, 28-30 Sept 2002. DDD
STRADIVARIUS STR 33804 [63:31]
This is the fourth of Stradivarius’s Scelsi chamber music edition. I have not heard the others but the numbers are: Vol. 1 STR33801; Vol. 2 STR33802; Vol. 3 STR33803. Beyond that I would just ask you to note the CD Accord collection of Scelsi’s music for chorus and orchestra as well as the series by Kairos and the ever-challenging Mode.
This Italian-born composer, much influenced at times by Eastern mysticism, early on studied with Schoenberg in Vienna. He moved in the orbits of intellectuals and artists of the 1920s and 1930s. His championing of the avant-garde of his day regardless of racial characteristics dictated that he stay in Switzerland for the duration of the second world war. Returning to Italy in 1946 he was much associated with ex-pat American composers such as Rzewski, Cage, Feldman and Browne.
The pre-War Preludi are not really that difficult to appreciate. It helps that Donna Amato is the sort of artist whose empathy with what she plays serves a musical transparency that remains despite complexity of texture. These pieces are variously propulsive, statuesque, Debussian-idyllic, starry, aggressive and gloomy. I particularly noted the hyper-active shrapnel and propulsive ragtime sub-currents of No. 1, the Debussian gently troubled eddies of No. 4, the echoes of Scriabin and Cyril Scott in 6 and 7 and the gloomy depths and lancing shafts of light in 12. The penultimate Prelude seems to suggest shattered yet active and aggressive shards of some cyborg watch mechanism.
Variazioni E Fuga is also fragmented and resistant to articulation. The music gives the impression of being re-threaded, inverted and palindromed back and forward, up and down. The brief Capriccio predates the Preludi. It is rife with dramatic gestures and deep bass groans. The Poemi encompass trailing lichen and gothic collision (1), a floating Pierrot dream (2), broken melody (3) and a gloomy bell-swung tread suggestive of film noir. The earliest piece is Rotativa which parallels in urgency the Medtner grand manner fuses it with a touch of Joplin.
Good liner notes complete an intriguing picture for adventurers who ultimately really do not need to be all that hardy.
Rob Barnett 

Intriguing. Adventurers really do not need to be all that hardy to enjoy this collection.