Scelsi: Three Latin Prayers; Sauh III & IV; TKRDG; Yliam; Antifona

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COMPOSERS: Scelsi
LABELS: Accord
WORKS: Three Latin Prayers; Sauh III & IV; TKRDG; Yliam; Antifona
PERFORMER: New London Chamber Choir, Percussive Rotterdam/James Wood
CATALOGUE NO: 465 401-2
Giacinto Scelsi’s output in the last 30 years of his life, which has given him almost cult status since his death in 1988, was rooted in his explorations of the human voice. The most remarkable of those vocal works was the solo-soprano Canti di Capricorno, but this survey of his choral music, all of it written between 1958 and 1975, also shows how visceral and direct his writing for voices could be.

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Not everything here has the immense technical intricacy and microscopic inflections of pitch and articulation that characterise so much of Scelsi’s later music, as he sought to give an inner life to every sound. The Three Latin Prayers and Antifona from 1970, for instance, have the unadorned chasteness of plainsong, and significantly they – together with the highly dissonant Tre canti sacri, composed two years earlier – are the only pieces to use texts (all taken from the Latin liturgy). The others use phonemes as their raw material, and in the two Sauh, TKRDG and Yliam, the voices conjure up a world where different musical cultures, from East and West, interpenetrate and enrich each other. TKRDG, in which the guttural male voices are underpinned by guitar and pattering percussion, is perhaps the most striking work here; the performances of the New London Chamber Choir under James Wood are remarkable for their assurance and command of such a personal sound-world.