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Giacinto Scelsi Volume 9: The Works for Viola

19 Jun 2011

Vincent Royer, viola & voice

1. Manto (1957) First recording with male voice (10:23 )

2. Coelocanth (1955) (10:51)

3. Elegia per Ty (1958) Séverine Ballon, cello (10:28)

4. Three Studies* (1956) First recording (13:43 )

5. Xnoybis* (1964) First recording (11:21)

Volume 9 of Mode’s Scelsi Edition is devoted to the first complete recording of Giacinto Scelsi’s works for viola solo and duo.

• Manto was a prophet in ancient Greece. Scelsi translated her oracle maxims into cryptic phonemes which the viola player has to sing simultaneously in the third movement. In Manto, the sound of the viola is expanded and explored via experimental playing techniques. This is the first recording of the third movement.

• In Xnoybis, Scelsi’s exploration “into the inside of the sound” is taken to its extreme. A central tone, variously colored and surrounded, moves in microtonal steps — no melody in the traditional sense, but a sole wandering sound. This is the first recording of the viola version in a transcription by Vincent Royer.

• Elegia per Ty for viola and violoncello is Scelsi’s tender rememberance of his former wife Dorothy (nicknamed “Ty”). It is among his most important chamber works.

• Coelocanth and the Three Studies belong to Scelsi’s earlier style of composing. Concise motivic gestures are developed by improvisation. These expressive, virtuoso pieces are overwhelming in their ecstatic ferocity. This is the first recording of the “Three Studies”.

• Violist Vincent Royer is one of the most outstanding performers of contemporary music today. Mr. Royer, who was born in France but now lives in Cologne, Germany, is among a handful of musicians who have truly mastered the works of the Spectral composers, such as Gerard Grisey. In his hands, these challenging and complex works give way to new forms of musical expression that are mysterious, powerful and filled with beautiful colors. A key to his deep understanding of new music is his close collaboration with living composers, like Horatiu Radulescu and Tristan Murail, two important composers with whom Mr. Royer has enjoyed a close working relationship.

• Liner notes by Friedrich Jaecker and Sharon Kanach.

Review By Stef

For those who think that improvisation, extended techniques and tonal explorations belong to the realm of avant-garde jazz, I can recommend a close listen to this fantastic album of modern classical music, composed by Giacinto Scelsi and performed by Vincent Royer on viola and Séverine Ballon on cello. I review classical music rarely, and when I do, I seem to have a preference for string duos, as with the equally recommendable “Manto and Madrigals” by Zehetmair and Killius.

This album is quite unique in the sense that it is the first recording of the complete works for viola and cello. It consists of five pieces, ranging from the experimental “Manto”, in which Royer even sings, to the more restrained and austere “Coelanth”. “Elegia per Ty”, dedicated to his former wife, is the most gripping piece, with cello and viola playing in a tender embrace, full of sadness and controlled tension.

There are no themes so to speak of, just soundscapes, composed with an incredible sense of minute development and sense for effect, and performed with an uncanny precision. The end result is incredibly mesmerising and compelling.

Fantastic music.

Andrew Clements
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 1 September 2011

Mode’s commitment to the challenge of recording the complete works of Giacinto Scelsi is extraordinary. Sales of such austere, difficult music can be relatively small, yet this is already volume nine in the series. The disc is devoted to the Italian composer’s works for viola, though the Elegia per Ty involves a cello as well, and in one of the movements of Manto, the violist has to sing as well as play. Xnoybis, from 1964, was originally written for violin at a time when Scelsi’s music was at its most extreme and concerned with exploring the implications of single sounds. All of the other works here were composed in the 1950s, when a continuous line, rather than a single pitch, was the focus of his attention. Coelocanth from 1955, named after the famous “living fossil” fish, and the Three Studies from the following year, are perhaps the most conventional works here; both are based on incantation-like melodies. The demands placed on the soloist are immense, often requiring several different playing techniques to be used simultaneously, but Vincent Royer’s performances are immaculate.


“AusSichten”

20 Oct 2010

Filigrane Klangschichten
Musikalität und Energie: Vincent Royer in Tolstefanz

tj Tolstefanz. »Für einige Sekunden war ihm die Welt aus den Fugen geraten», heißt es in einer kurzen Geschichte des Heilbronner Autoren Otto Winzen über einen Dirigenten, der während eines Konzerts von den Gedanken an den Tod eines Freundes dominiert wird. Der »große Mann», wie jener an anderer Stelle beschrieben ist, las die Geschichte selbst vor: Ernst Helmuth Flammer hatte das zweite Konzert der neuen Saison seiner Reihe AusSichten am Mittwoch in Tolstefanz dem Andenken an Horatio Radulescu gewidmet, einen Freund und, wie es Flammer eingangs respektvoll-bewegt formulierte, neben Gérard Grisey Schöpfer eines Musikdenkens von »großem Potenzial»: des Spektralismus.
Der denkt Musik von Obertonreihen her und breitet diese – auskomponiert – wie ein »Firmament über die ganz Musik» (Flammer) aus. Vincent Royer, Bratschist extraordinaire, war der, der diese Idee vor rund 30 Gästen konkretes Klangfaszinosum werden ließ.
Wo die Entwicklungen begannen, die Horatio Radulescus Musikdenken maßgeblich geprägt haben, das machte Vincent Royer am Beginn des Konzerts deutlich. Giacinto Scelsis »Studie» aus dem Jahr 1966 begegnete dabei dem 25 Jahre jüngeren Kopfsatz »Hora lunga» aus György Ligetis Bratschensonate – für den Solisten des Abends waren beide Werke, die sich im Feld der Tonalität oder an dessen Grenzen bewegen, auch eine Gelegenheit, Vielschichtigkeit und emotionale berührende Tiefe des Klangs der Viola auszuspielen. Was Scelsis um Einzeltöne kreisendes, sie immer wieder neu beleuchtendes Werk – im Original ein Klavierstück – und den ausschließlich auf der C-Saite gespielten Klangflächenfluss der »Hora Lunga» verbindet, ist nicht nur, dass beide empfindsam die feinsten Details des Klangs in das Zentrum stellen. Was die avant- gardistischen Werke außerdem eint, sind ein sich immer wieder Bahn brechender volksmusikalischer Ton und ein elegischer Impetus.
Empfindsamkeit ist auch ein Schlüsselwort, die Klangwelt des vor zwei Jahren verstorbenen Horatio Radulescu zu beschreiben. »Das Andere», sein Opus 49, nimmt die Schichten der Klangfarben quasi unter die Lupe, löst die Obertöne aus dem Kontext des Grundklangs, fügt sie in immer wieder anderer Weise neu zusammen. Die so sich in einem rhyhtmischen Fluss, an der Grenze zum Stillstand entwickelnden Klangfelder zu gestalten, aus denen immer wieder kurze energiegeladene Motive wie Protuberanzen ausbrechen, gelang dem sich dieser Welt hingebenden Vincent Royer begeisternd – Präzision, Behutsamkeit, Einfühlung prägten seine Klanggebung.
Das Verfließen des Klangs prägt auch Radulescus »Lux Animae», in dem sich irrlichternde Klangwolken um einzelne, konventionelle Töne ballen. Die Übergänge zwischen beiden Energiezuständen finden in wilder, archaisch anmutenden Sprunghaftigkeit statt, die der Bratscher mit virtuoser Nonchalance meisterte.
Ein kleines, unspektakuläres Juwel schließlich reihte sich in Form der »Kafka-Momente» des weithin unbekannten Hermann Große-Schware in das Programm, ein Werk das in Thematik wie in Parallelität von Stimme und Streichinstrument an Kurtágs »Kafka-Fragmente» erinnert. Kleine, sprunghafte Motivpartikel und knappe Textfragmente fassen das Surreale der Welt Kafkas treffend in Klang.


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