Giacinto Scelsi

Giacinto Scelsi

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On this collection of works by the enigmatic composer and mystic Giacinto Scelsi, Edition RZ presents six vintage recordings, dating from 1961 to 1990 and featuring an interesting mix of instrumental combinations and novel forms. Scelsi's musical style -- if it may be described as such, considering its looseness, spontaneity, and quirks -- developed alongside his esoteric beliefs, and was increasingly shaped from the 1950s on by his meditative improvisations, which he usually recorded for later transcription. Scelsi's music is often focused on a minimal number of pitches and sonorities, obsessively developed through repetition, layering, and elongation; the drone-like, microtonal Four Pieces, Each on One Note for chamber orchestra (1959) is an early example of this concentrated approach, while the String Quartet No. 4 (1964) and Pranam I for soprano, 12 instruments, and tape (1972) reveal more elaborate clusters and bent tones superimposed over their core pitches. Anagamin for 12 strings (1965) also has a band of overlapping notes at its center, but the greater activity between the parts resembles the micropolyphony of Ligeti and Penderecki, and seems very much like a product of its time. Diverging somewhat from the monotone intensity of the aforementioned pieces, Okanagon for harp, tam-tam and double bass (1968) is a study of dry percussive effects and sustained vibrations; and the String Quartet No. 2 (1961) is perhaps the most varied work of the program in its extended string techniques and teasing suggestions of melodies, harmonies, and ornamentation. The sound of these recordings is not always the cleanest, as is quite evident in Pranam I and the String Quartet No. 2; but the recordings from the 1980s and '90s are free of tape hiss and are reasonably clear in details and tone quality.

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