Aldo Clementi

Aldo Clementi: Madrigale

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These set pieces by Aldo Clementi reaching from 1956 to 1997 reveal a startling thing about his compositional methods: He uses the same ones over and over again with little variation. Like Marcel Proust, who wrote the same phrase enough times in as many different ways as possible to create a novel, Clementi uses an extremely small array of tones, colors, instruments, tempi, and tonal constructions to make his music. It is as if he were attempting to erect a memorial to something, some lover, some influence -- and one can hear Schumann and Brahms of all people in here as well as Webern and Schoenberg. His lyrical architectures may start along a tone row and find themselves lost in the reverie -- much like Proust or even Mallarme -- of a childhood event, which inevitably is transformed via interval and close harmony into a meditation on longing and loss. Unlike all of his heroes, past and present, however, Clementi leaves the edges out of his music, preferring to allow them to exist only at the margins -- i.e. in the listener's mind. In this way, his music is akin to Morton Feldman's or even Gavin Bryars'. And while it is true there is an intellectual (read: academic) rigorousness to Clementi's approach, there is an emotional basis for all of it. To attempt to articulate, as he does in the " Himmelreich," the spiritual terrain of musical history as a continuing force of nature using unconventional rhythms created by celesta and vibes as well as an oboe to "narrate" is to seek to speak what is unspeakable, even unutterable. The crossing rhythmic patterns cancel each other out even as they go further in their inarticulation of the oboe's "speech." Clementi is a fascinating composer because he wears his heart -- and his influences -- on his sleeve. If loss seems to be an overriding concern in his music, it is only because of how late it truly is in his view of Western civilization. Clementi's voice, as gorgeously articulated by the Ives Ensemble and Hat's stellar sound, is that of a gentle prophet of tribulation.

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