Sylvano Bussotti

The Rara Requiem/Bergkristall/Lorenzaccio Symphony

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A talented graphic artist, Bussotti has made some of the most amazing looking graph scores, like the famous "Five Pieces for David Tudor," a 1959 score made from a 1949 drawing. There are lines running in every direction, wild squiggles and vortices, small icons of imaginary characters, laconic word phrases, and formless dark areas. Likewise, the score for "Coeur Pour Batteur" on Max Neuhaus' out of print Columbia disc Electronics and Percussion is as defined as it is open to subjective readings by the performer. Neuhaus divides the score into spatial directions for sound-producing body movements; the piece also allows for the effects of inadvertent body movements and instruments set up to vibrate sympathetically out of the performer's control. In Bussotti's later works heard in this two-CD reissue of recordings from 1976 and 1978, the composer's approach is more traditional but the sounds are not. "Bergkristall" is a ballet based on Adalbert Stifter's tale of a young boy and girl who become lost in a Christmas Day snowstorm while returning home from the valley where their grandparents live. Following the spirit of a baker's boy who had once become lost, they wander off toward the "regions of eternal ice." Nature takes on supernatural forms -- snow spirits, comets -- that dance with the children to keep them awake (together with their mouthfuls of coffee), and in the morning the children are rescued. The music is often presented in brief illustrations, as dense (in a good sense) as the multicolored drawings in a children's book. If Charles Ives had decided to write with serialistic gestures and sounds, the result would probably be close to this unusual and exciting score.