Scelsi: Yamaon; Anahit; I presagi; Three Pieces; Okanagon

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LABELS: Kairos
WORKS: Yamaon; Anahit; I presagi; Three Pieces; Okanagon
PERFORMER: Roland Hermann (baritone), Annette Bik (violin), Pierre-Stéphane Meugé (sax); Klangforum Wien/Hans Zender
Giacinto Scelsi really only achieved international recognition in the last years before his death in 1988, when he was briefly the darling of the European new-music circuit and several generations of composers recognised that he was a senior, distinctive figure who shared many of their own preoccupations. Scelsi started his composing career as a fully paid-up neoclassicist before turning to 12-note technique, but after a decisive change of direction in the mid-Fifties he defined a world of his own in which rhythm, form and pitch were reconstructed from first principles. In the Three Pieces for soprano and saxophone of 1956, the two styles briefly coexist, but within a couple of years he had reached the new-found land, even though Varèse’s influence is detectable in the baritone’s atomised syllables of the wild and passionate Yamaon and the abrasive wind sonorities of I presagi, both visions of the destruction of a Mayan city written in 1958.


The 1965 Anahit, though, is pure Scelsi: it’s music without rhetoric or even a recognisable sense of pulse, refracting the sound of a solo violin through slowly shifting instrumental colours, while Okanagon of three years later pares the invention down even further to the timbres of a harp, double bass and tam-tam and creates a world of primeval ritual. However disconcerting it’s music that demands respect and the kind of devoted realisation it receives from Hans Zender and Klangforum Wien. Andrew Clements