Part/Cage/Scelsi

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Part/Cage/Scelsi
LABELS: New Albion
WORKS: Annum per annum; Souvenir; In nomine lucis
PERFORMER: Christoph Maria Moosmann (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: NA 074CD DDD
President Nixon, with a self-conscious eye to the future, views his meeting with Premier Chou En-Lai in John Adams’s Nixon in China as a point of simultaneous transformation and transfixion. The libretto’s paradox is an apt reminder of the minimalistic essence of Adams’s work and of the work of others who have taken this path. Arvo Pärt’s music for organ (heard in its entirety here), with its radiant austerity, explores the self-same threshold – albeit at a significantly lower metabolic rate – between stasis and movement; an absorbing interior world in which each melodic interval and harmony can be both still and vibrant.

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Christoph Maria Moosmann’s performances encapsulate beautifully the intense and studied simplicity of Pärt’s tintinnabuli style, and convey the timbral richness with which this music can be performed; confined or drab monotony are clearly absent.

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John Cage’s Souvenir (1984) and Giacinto Scelsi’s In nomine lucis provide interesting ‘minimalist’ and ‘spiritual’ counterparts to the Pärt works, the former for its Zen-inspired affirmation of moment-to-moment musical structures, and the latter (Scelsi, who died in 1988, was often considered to be an Italian Cage) for its microscopic attention to the tiny melodic inflections achieved by careful adjustments to the stops. Andrew McCrea