One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger              Founding Editor: Rob Barnett              Contact Seen and Heard here

Some items
to consider

  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
  • Mozart Flute Quartets
  • Schubert complete piano works
  • Sammartini: 6 Concerti grossi
  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
 
Tudor



CD and Blue-ray Audio


CD and Blue-ray Audio


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 

REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

Giacinto SCELSI (1905-1988)
Suite No. 9 Ttai (1953) [36:30]
Suite No. 10 Ka (1954) [22:55]
Sabine Liebner (piano)
rec. 2014, Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, Köln
WERGO WER6794-2 [59:36]

Over five years ago I encountered Giacinto Scelsi’s Preludi in a strikingly good recording and performance by Alessandra Ammara on the Arts label (see review). Scelsi was by all accounts a strange character whose work remained hidden from the public for most of his life. While the Preludi represent an earlier phase, both of these Suites come from his so-called ‘second period’ after WWII and after enduring a personal crisis which included his wife leaving him. He ultimately moved towards Eastern philosophy as witnessed by the subtitles for these suites, but the essence of the creative change made was an abandonment of conventional composition into one of creation through improvisation. Friedrich Jaecker’s booklet notes for this release point out that not a single work by Scelsi exists as notated by Scelsi himself. “The method of an inspired roll of dice” meant working directly at the piano, recording the results, and then having another composer, Vieri Tosatti, transcribe the music into notation as accurately as possible.

At a time in which the most high profile composers were hotly engaged in the scariest kinds of avant-garde atonality, Scelsi was exploring a free spirited search in sonority and a special kind of atmosphere one might expect to find in later decades. He saw himself as a ‘postman’ of music, “one who sometimes receives messages, which he then delivers.” The ‘chance’ elements in his music invite comparison with a figure such as John Cage, but Scelsi’s music, while sharing an uncompromisingly enigmatic air, is a good deal less austere than Cage’s. While the elements of Zen philosophy and Eastern reflectiveness are unmistakable, this is also music which is arguably a distillation of Italian musical and cultural experience descended from the likes of Respighi.

The Ninth Suite is the more approachable of the two, though neither works pose insurmountable obstacles to any listener aware of names such as Hans Otte or Peter Michael Hamel. Scelsi’s movements can be impressionistic, as with the very first of this Suite No. 9 which opens in a static texture like the reflections on smoothly undulating water. There are explorations of colour and sonority on very few notes, darkly expressive moods almost in the manner of late Liszt, and at times there are lines that imply lyricism as well as the development of ruminative depths.

The Tenth Suite shares some of these characteristics but has a wider range of dramas in movements given markings such as squillante or ‘shrill’, pungente or ‘stinging’, and violento or ‘ferociously’. These remain controlled and disciplined pieces in their own right however, and there is little in the way of directly pianistic virtuosity in the romantic sense. The demands are more those of interpreting and inhabiting the multi-layered inner worlds of the performer/composer who had already ‘delivered his messages’ in sounds, whether they be of beauty or of barbarism.

It is fascinating to compare and contrast the aforementioned Preludi with these Suites and hear how the intense and compact language of the earlier works overlaps into a world where intuition and physical response take on as important a role as intellectual rigour. Sabine Liebner’s performances are as convincing as any I could imagine, and the Wergo recording is very good indeed, providing a concert-hall perspective with a nice balance between detail and atmosphere. By chance Steffen Schleiermacher’s recording of the Eighth and Ninth Suites has also recently appeared on the MDG label but I haven’t had a chance to hear this one – it seems now there is ever more Scelsi to explore than before.

Dominy Clements







 




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger