Scelsi: Hyxos; Cinque incantesimi; Rucke di guck; Quattro illustrazioni

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COMPOSERS: Scelsi
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Hyxos; Cinque incantesimi; Rucke di guck; Quattro illustrazioni
PERFORMER: Carin Levine (flutes), Kristi Becker, Giacinto Scelsi (piano), Peter Veale (oboe), Edith Salmen (percussion)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 340-2
‘Classical Western music has devoted practically all its attention to the musical form. It has forgotten to comprehend music as energy or as life,’ wrote Scelsi in Son et musique, 1981. The pieces on this disc were written in the Fifties and certainly none conforms to the compositional rigours of serialism so rampant at that time. And each does possess a vital life force, whether calmly meditative or blatantly high-spirited.

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An Asian aura is given to Hyxos for alto flute, with its contemplative, undulating lines and ritualistic use of gongs and a bell. In this and Quays, Carin Levine confidently calls on the alto flute’s throaty, haunting timbres.

The piano works provide perfect contrast. The persistent repetition of punchy rhythms, melodic motifs and warm chord clusters drives Cinque incantesimi and Quattro illustrazioni through their animated paces. Kristi Becker is a dynamic interpreter, as is oboist Peter Veale in Rucke di guck, a frenzied, characterful dialogue with a piccolo.

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Unfortunately, a recording of Krishna e Radha(1986), with Scelsi aged 81 accompanying on piano, has not reproduced well. It’s a nice idea, particularly for an improvisatory piece, but the wall of hiss, background footsteps and distant-sounding flute makes it difficult to gain any focus. Kate Sherriff