Weiping Lin

Giacinto Scelsi: The Violin Works

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Familiarity with Giacinto Scelsi's large-scale works for ensembles may prepare listeners for some of the strategies in his chamber music, but the pieces for solo violin function differently, out of necessity. Where the long strands of tones and microtonal clusters found in his orchestral music are achieved by the layering of many parts, the violin by itself is limited to its four strings and the basic ways pitches can be produced and manipulated. The chief technique Scelsi used to sustain a central pitch, or pitch complex, was based on active figuration around it, or by narrow fluctuations of pitch surrounding long-held notes. This 2013 release from Mode presents five multi-movement works composed between 1954 and 1973, and the Divertimentos No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 are typical of Scelsi's freely melodic early style, which are filled with the ornamentation mentioned above, while Xnoybis and L'âme ailée -- L'âme ouverte are more austere pieces, restricted to the microtonal interweaving of lines and sustained monody. The committed performances by Weiping Lin demonstrate her thorough knowledge and expertise in Scelsi's music, and she creates interest in the varieties of attacks, bowing techniques, and tonal inflections that seem discretionary, if not improvisatory. One may be skeptical of the later Scelsi pieces, which tend toward monotonous buzzing and little else, but the Divertimentos are actually easy to appreciate for their virtuosic displays, and quite listenable because of their predominantly modal writing. Mode's sound is clean and close-up, so every aspect of the performances can clearly be heard.

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