Giovanna Reitano

Sylvano Bussotti: Fragmentations; Labirinti

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Sylvano Bussotti: Fragmentations; Labirinti Review

by Stephen Eddins

This CD is devoted to Sylvano Bussotti's music for harp, performed with passion and conviction by Giovanna Reitano. Fragmentation (1962) is notable for its spareness; there is perhaps as much silence or the decay of tones into silence, as there are sounds. The effect is sometimes haunting, but the lack of eventfulness wears thin over its quarter-hour length. Bussotti is more generous in his deployment of sounds in Labirinto (1987) and the three Nuovi Labirinti (1992), which include glimpses of discernible melody, but few traditional harp figurations, such as glissandi or arpeggios. The title of the 35-minute final work, Fragmentations for a harpist (1962), doesn't reveal that, while it is written for one harpist, it is written for two harps, between which the performer moves. One harp is tuned conventionally and the other is "prepared" in the way that Cage prepared a piano. The first track on the CD, Fragmentation, is, in fact, the half of the piece written for conventional harp, without the interspersed sections for prepared harp, and is consequently just about half the length. Given the unconventional playing techniques used on the conventionally tuned harp -- slapping and tapping the body of the instrument, scraping strings, caressing muted strings, changing pedals without playing the strings at all, as well as occasional vocalizations -- it's not always immediately evident which instrument the player is using. In a live performance, moving between the instruments would add an element of drama that can't be captured on a CD. The recording is spectacularly vivid; every scrape, tap, or whisper is clearly audible. Because of the rarified nature of the music, this CD would probably not be of interest to enthusiasts of traditional harp music, but might appeal to fans of experimental music.

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