Iannis Xenakis

Dämmerschein (Xenakis Vol.3)

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"Dämmerschein" ("Rays of Twilight") is an 11-minute orchestral piece from 1994 which, despite its title, never quite manages to shine. Iannis Xenakis' trademark clusters sound heavy and soggy, whereas in earlier works ("Kekrops", "Jonchaies") they were vicious blows; the glissandi which sounded like music from another planet in the late 1950s are now weeping apologies. Similarly, "La Déesse Athéna," (1992) despite virtuoso falsetto shrieks from Philip Larson and fine solo percussion from Timothy Adams, stays comfortably inside well-charted territory -- the extreme register wind writing (here recalling more than ever Edgard Varèse's "Octandre") is predictably gruff and user-unfriendly, but, in comparison, a blast of 1969's "Anaktoria" will make your hair stand on end. Fortunately, there is a piece of vintage Xenakis included here: a new recording of 1969's percussion classic "Persephassa." The fact that this was written and scored from thousands of mathematical calculations makes no difference -- it's still going strong after more than 30 years. "I don't need the calculations anymore," Xenakis said in a 60th birthday interview in 1982. Comparing "Dämmerschein" to "Persephassa" leads to the conclusion that maybe he does after all. Instead of filling up the disc with other Xenakis orchestral music, Juan Pablo Izquierdo opts for Varèse's 1921 classic "Amériques," thereby inviting comparison with the mighty Pierre Boulez's New York Philharmonic recording of the work. The Carnegie Mellon students equip themselves rather well, and the mix brings out some odd pockets of hitherto hidden instrumental activity, though one suspects this is due more to good luck: the mic placing is strange and the performance is occasionally marred by clicks and rustlings. That said, the ending knocks Boulez out of the ballpark, thanks to the apocalyptic baritone fire siren from Pittsburgh's Mount Lebanon Fire Station.

Track Listing

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