Sciarrino: Infinito nero; Le voci sottovetro

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COMPOSERS: Sciarrino
LABELS: Kairos
WORKS: Infinito nero; Le voci sottovetro
PERFORMER: Sonia Turchetta (mezzo-soprano), Carlo Sini (reciter); Ensemble Recherche
CATALOGUE NO: 0012022 KAI
Salvatore Sciarrino’s music-theatre piece Luci mie traditrici (Oh my deceitful eyes) was originally based upon the colourful life of the composer Carlo Gesualdo, but when he discovered that Schnittke was also busy on an opera on the same subject, Sciarrino changed track and eliminated all references to the great madrigalist in his final score. Yet the fascination with Gesualdo’s music remained, and the spin-off was a series of instrumental transcriptions that he grouped together in 1998 as Le voci sottovetro (The voices behind the glass) – quicksilver miniatures full of unexpected instrumental colours and dizzying changes of perspective, which recall Peter Maxwell Davies’s Sixties’ reworkings of medieval and Renaissance sources more than anything else.

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On this disc they are interspersed with readings from the letters of the poet Tasso, contemporary with Gesualdo’s originals, and the theatre work here, Infinito nero, also takes a text from the turn of the 17th century as its source, in this case the writings, or more accurately ravings, of a mystic, one Maria Maddalena de Pazzi, whose garbled utterances were faithfully recorded by a group of novices in the convent where she lived. Sciarrino’s setting of the words, spewing them out in torrents of syllables interspersed with mysterious silences is very striking. As always he invents totally fresh sound-worlds, constantly re-evaluating the relationship between text and music. It would be fascinating to see a staging of Infinito nero. Andrew Clements