Ensemble Avantgarde

Giacinto Scelsi: Chamber Music

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Ensemble Avantgarde's 2013 release on MDG presents six pieces that sum up the ideas and techniques Giacinto Scelsi employed in his late semi-improvised works. Three are solos and three are duets, so the forces are small and limited in their potential for creating dense sonorities. Yet Scelsi's music wasn't always about microtonal drones played by large ensembles, or vast durations that made time seem irrelevant. Here, the strands of Scelsi's textures are exposed and clarified by isolating the instruments. Ko-Lho (1976) is transparent in its counterpoint, though the rapid changes between the flute and clarinet in register and gestures sometimes suggest the presence of a third unwritten part. Quattro Illustrazioni for piano solo (1953) hearkens back to Scelsi's early keyboard experiments with sonority, though its economic explorations of pitches anticipate the spare style he developed later. "Dithome" for cello (1957), along with Xnoybis for violin (1964), shows Scelsi's interest in exploiting the full range of sonorities available on solo string instruments. Hyxos, for flute and percussion is a meditation that evokes gamelan music, and is fascinating for its mix of colors. To the Master (1974) is a transcription of an improvisation between cellist Victoria Parr and Scelsi, which emphasizes the continuously unfolding melodic line against octaves and single notes in the piano part. The performances here are serious and skillful, and while some may question the validity of Scelsi's eccentric methods, Ensemble Avantgarde demonstrates that they believe in the composer's exotic and sometimes entrancing results.

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