Xenakis: Charisma X; a film by Efi Xirou

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Xenakis
LABELS: Mode
WORKS: Charisma X; a film by Efi Xirou
PERFORMER: Iannis Xenakis , Sylvio Gualda, Elisabeth Chojnacka, Benny Sluchin, Frances-Marie Uitti, Lori Freedman etc
CATALOGUE NO: 218

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Devotees of Mode’s Xenakis Edition will be delighted with Volume 12, a DVD release of Efi Xirou’s 2008 documentary Charisma X about the Greek composer, architect, and theorist. Charisma itself is the title of a 1971 work for clarinet and cello that is performed on camera throughout the documentary, along with brief excerpts from other chamber works, often in evocative locations, none of which are identified.

Archival footage of the composer speaking on his works, as well as tantalising glimpses of such massive spectacles as the 1977 Diatope at the Pompidou Centre and the opera Oresteia, are interspersed with revealing interviews with those who not only lived with the composer (his wife and daughter), but who
also fought alongside him in the Greek resistance.

Observations by the composer’s wife that Xenakis paid no heed to weather reports when planning travel, expecting the weather to follow his commands, and that he was attracted to her small breasted figure because it reminded him of ancient Greek figures are intrinsically amusing, but viewers with little or no awareness of Xenakis or his music will have a hard time putting these reminiscences into an appropriate biographical or historical context.

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Despite the presence of a narrator little attempt is made to weld these fragments into a cohesive narrative, thereby missing a golden opportunity to extend awareness of one of the most original musical minds of the 20th century beyond his fan club. Worth a look, even if many viewers will also have to make a trip to the library or internet. Howard Goldstein