The French label Montaigne has concentrated chiefly on contemporary repertoire; and its new batch of well-presented reissues, from its own catalogue and that of Salabert, is to be welcomed for making some significant music more accessible to students and enthusiasts.
At the head of the list must be a set of chamber music by GIACINTO SCELSI, including the complete string quartets.
The journey from the 31-minute First Quartet of 1944, somewhat Bergian but already quite individual, to the highly charged micro-landscape of the late Fifth Quartet is a fascinating one, and the Arditti Quartet plays with consummate mastery (MO 782156, 2 discs).
Another one-off figure, IANNIS XENAKIS, is represented by the suite from his music for the Oresteia, simpler than usual in style but as raw as ever, and including the dramatic scena Kassandra for voice (baritone and falsetto) and percussion – an extraordinary tour de force for Spiros Sakkas and Sylvio Gualda (MO 782151).
And Xenakis’s pupil PASCAL DUSAPIN is revealed as a composer of vivid aural imagination in a collection of pieces for varied chamber ensembles, played with panache by the ensemble Ars Nova (MO 782150).
Most remarkable of all, in many ways, is the Sankt-Bach-Passion of MAURICIO KAGEL, in a 1985 performance with Anne Sofie von Otter among the soloists and conducted by the composer.
This is nothing less than a documentary biography of Bach in the form of one of his Passions, set to music which, without a breath of pastiche, seems somehow to partake of Bach’s own seriousness of purpose.
The enterprise might be thought foolhardy if not blasphemous, since Bach’s sufferings under his various autocratic employers can hardly be equated with the Crucifixion; but it emerges as, at the very least, magnificently perverse (MO 782157, 2 discs).