Scelsi: Ygghur; Natura renovatur; Ohoi; Anâgâmin; Alleluja; Ave Maria

COMPOSERS: Scelsi
LABELS: ECM
ALBUM TITLE: Scelsi
WORKS: Ygghur; Natura renovatur; Ohoi; Anâgâmin; Alleluja; Ave Maria
PERFORMER: Frances-Marie Uitti (cello); Munich CO/Christoph Poppen
CATALOGUE NO: 476 3106
Like Greta Garbo, Scelsi’s fame increased with his invisibility (he refused to be photographed), and since his death in 1988 he’s acquired a cult following. In later life he abandoned writing, preferring to fix his ideas in long, recorded improvisations. The cellist Frances-Marie Uitti has transcribed hundreds of hours of these, and understands his mystical, long-breathed style better than anyone alive. The music is simplicity itself: just long single notes or chords which very slowly change colour through tiny inflections of pitch and bow pressure. Uitti creates an amazingly unbroken stream of sound, as if she’s playing with an infinitely long bow.

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The three string orchestra pieces are more dense – Natura Renovatur in particular attains an almost unbearable intensity. The Munich Chamber Orchestra plays these with just as much care and concentration as Uitti brings to her pieces. The two short pieces played by Uitti in Scelsi’s earlier, beautifully simple melodic style make a startling and very welcome contrast. Ivan Hewett