Varese: Amériques; Arcana; Déserts; Ionisation

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COMPOSERS: Varese
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Amériques; Arcana; Déserts; Ionisation
PERFORMER: Chicago SO/Pierre Boulez
CATALOGUE NO: 471 137-2

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The whole of Varèse’s surviving output can be comfortably accommodated on a pair of CDs, as it is in Riccardo Chailly’s superlative survey on Decca, but Pierre Boulez’s single disc concentrates on the two orchestral works that Varèse wrote in the years after he emigrated to the United States in 1915, Amériques and Arcana. Boulez is totally in his element in music like this, observing every teeming detail, controlling the massive up-wellings of sound with maximum assurance, and in the Chicago Symphony he has an orchestra that has all the virtuosity and panache to deliver it at maximum voltage. Christopher Lyndon-Gee’s account of Arcana pales by comparison; there is neither enough security or weight of tone in the playing to compete on any level. The Naxos disc also includes equally cautious performances of the three pungent ensemble pieces of the Twenties, and Varèse’s final orchestral work, Déserts, in which he made one of the first attempts at combining electronic music with live performers. The tape sounds rather faded now, and it is not surprising that Boulez opts for the version of the score omitting the pre-recorded interludes, and makes a thing of wonder out of its intricate play of colours and textures.The only puzzle is why it has taken DG more than five years to release this outstanding collection. Andrew Clements