Scelsi: Natura renovatur; Anagamin; Ohoi; Elohim

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COMPOSERS: Scelsi
LABELS: Forlane
WORKS: Natura renovatur; Anagamin; Ohoi; Elohim
PERFORMER: Walloon Royal CO/Jean-Paul Dessy
CATALOGUE NO: UCD 16800
Since his death in 1988 Giacinto Scelsi’s slow, sparse, meditative style has developed something of a cult following. This disc contains four works for string ensemble from the Sixties, written in Scelsi’s late style in which melody, harmony and rhythm are all but banished, the better to focus the listener’s attention on minute, fluttering changes to long held notes and chords. Those wispy, drifting notes can seem aimless, but eventually, over long tracts of time, a kind of harmonic sense emerges; out of a glassy microtonal chord a sudden warm octave will emerge with the force of a revelation. Much depends on the performers, who need to create a sound that is both intense and intensely beautiful, so the listener isn’t let off the hook for a second. This Belgian orchestra has clearly lavished endless time and care on this difficult music, and the results are quite wonderful. You sense the players actually feel those minute bendings of the note as expressive, almost as if they’re singing them. They’re discreetly helped by the ethereal sound of the recording, which is warm and clear without being close. Within the four pieces, there’s more variety than you’d expect, and the dark majesty of Elohim at the end is a marvellous dramatic stroke. Ivan Hewett

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