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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Giacinto Scelsi - Vincent Royer, Séverine Ballon – The Viola Works (Mode, 2011) ****½

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. Listen to the excerpt below and judge for yourselves.

© stef


Richard said...

I have Scelsi's piano works from the same series. It is definitely in the contemporary classical piano music tradition, but there are stretches I could easily imagine Cecil Taylor playing.