Frances-Marie Uitti / Christoph Poppen

Scelsi: Natura Renovatur

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Cellist Frances-Marie Uitti formed both professional and personal ties with composer and mystic Giacinto Scelsi, and as a student of his in yoga and metaphysics, she became a spiritual disciple as well. It is natural, then, that she would champion his rarefied and esoteric music, especially his work for solo cello, Trilogy -- The Three Ages of Man (1956-1965), which he dedicated to her. On this 2006 ECM New Series CD, Uitti serves up compelling performances of the microtonal "Ygghur" (1961) -- the third section from the Trilogy -- and the modal "Ave Maria" and "Alleluja" (both 1970) from Three Latin Prayers, arranged from the version for solo voice. These are interleaved with three works adapted for string orchestra, played with shimmering sonorities by the Münchener Kammerorchester, conducted by Christoph Poppen. Ohoi (1966), Anâgâmin (1965), and Natura renovatur (1967) feature tone clusters, glissandi, harmonics, and unusual bowing techniques; apart from their transcendental meanings, they may be regarded as concentrated technical studies with incidental atmospheric qualities. Uitti's cello performances, however, are essential to this CD's import, and the placid stillness she communicates in "Ave Maria" and "Alleluja" is quite similar to the timeless effect of Gregorian chant; this was perhaps Scelsi's intention, though one has to wonder how else these pieces could be interpreted. Yet "Ygghur" occupies the central position on this fairly symmetrical program, and while it seems to be Uitti's most raptly meditative performance, it is also the most directly communicative in emotional depth and physical presence. ECM's engineering is exceptional, finely balanced between clear details in the foreground and full background resonance.

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