Volume 9: The Works for Viola
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.
Giacinto Scelsi : The Viola Works (Mode / Amazon)
Le neuvième volume de la série The Scelsi Edition (Mode Records) renferme des piéces pour violon et violoncelle écrites par Giacinto Scelsi. Ce sont Vincent Royer (pour le violon) et Séverine Ballon (pour le violoncelle) qui s’y attaquent.
Ballon n’intervient qu’à mi-chemin, elle interpréte en compagnie de Royer les trois temps d’Elegia per Ty. Son instrument anime superbement une musique de chambre qui nous parle d’ondines qui, malgré leurs traits fins et racés, s’agacent du va-et-vient des deux archets.
Avant et après ce duo, Royer délivre seul les messages de Scelsi. Des messages d’un autre temps, aux timbres mystérieux. Maigrelet, l’archet fait par exemple entendre d’autres voix que celles du violon sur Xynobis où l’on croit entendre des joueurs de zournas. Indécis, il redessine la partition de Manto et où il se mêle à la voix du violoniste.
L’orientalisme de Scelsi est toujours fragile et il arrive, comme sur Coelocanth et Three Studies, qu’il parte en fumée sous l’action de feux follets. Ce qu’ont bien compris Vincent Royer et Séverine Ballon, c’est que les incartades bouleversantes du compositeur sont faites de désaxements plus que de lyrisme ou de romantisme ultramoderne. Et que sa spiritualité s’ embarrasse moins de verticalité que de courbes stupéfiantes.
Giacinto Scelsi - Vincent Royer, Séverine Ballon – The Viola Works (Mode, 2011)
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.
You think a disc of (mostly) solo viola would be a cerebral dry-heave? Not so—this set for for viola (the violin’s deeper-voiced sibling) unaccompanied is nearly a revelation. Many hep listeners are aware a violin can soar, swing, and cry—these works by Italian mod-classical fellow Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) display the viola (played by Vincent Royer) moaning the Mediterranean blues (NOT the scale or chords, but the FEELING), starkly lamenting bygone days and love, and smartly zig-zagging with European drama with panache similar (in tone) to the late Beethoven string quartets. Not easy listening but rewarding to string-lovers.
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