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Complete Orchestral Works 4


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
premiere of the second "piano concerto" July 18 2006
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This ORCHESTRAL WORKS, VOLUME IV collection of Xenakis from Timpani has the same format as Volume III -- a fantastic premiere recording of the radical piano concerto "Erikhthon" (1974 -- 17'21), along with another superb composition, "Akrata (1965 -- 10'30), and then two later works that are not nearly as good, "Ata" (1987 -- 14'39) and "Krinoidi" (1991 -- 10'08). If you are not already deep into the music of Iannis Xenakis, I recommend starting at the beginning of the series, as Volumes I and II contain more consistently excellent compositions. The performances and recordings are uniformly outstanding across all four discs.

Xenakis composed three works for piano and orchestra. "Synaphai" (1974) was recorded on Volume III, so I expect Hiroaki Ooi on piano, with the Luxembourg Philharmonic, Arturo Tamayo conducting, will tackle the third one ("Keqrops" -- 1986) on Volume V. Both "Synaphai" and "Erikhthon" are compelling, amazing works for huge orchestras (14 winds, 13 brass and 60 strings on "Erikhthon"), featuring trademark glissandi and nearly continuous athletic piano. "Erikhthon" is from the peak of Xenakis's "arborescences" phase, a compositional form which produced complex glissandi.

"Akrata," the earliest work included, is from 1965, Xenakis's most purely mathematical period, for a small orchestra of only 16 winds and 8 brass. "Akrata" is relatively spare, austere and stark, and somewhat foreboding, in contrast to the high energy of "Erikhthon." The two later works are much simpler and have a pummelling quality to them that is hard to take even for a dedicated afficionado of the avant-garde like myself. Granted that Xenakis may have been reflecting the brutality of the turn to the right of the 1980s (Reagan, Thatcher, nuclear threats, and so forth), it is undeniable that "Ata" and "Krinoidi" are not among his finest works. "Krinoidi" is marginally the better of the two, and is here recorded for the first time.

All in all, another fine addition to the Xenakis oeuvre, another splendid accomplishment for Maestro Tamayo and all the fine musicians involved. The cover is a colorized photo of the visionary Xenakis with added touches creating the impression, quite appropos, that his hair is on fire... Many thanks to Timpani -- I look forward to Volume V!

This disc is still available, now found at: Complete Orchestral Works, Vol. 4.

See my list XENAKIS: A LISTENER'S GUIDE for much more on one of the three best composers of the late 20th century.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Four works representing various phases of Xenakis' career Feb. 22 2010
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
This Timpani disc is the fourth in the label's project to record all of Iannis Xenakis's orchestral works. (A box set of all five discs has recently appeared.) As always, Arturo Tamayo leads the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg. Now, I am a bit concerned about the reliability of these performances, as many Xenakis scores cannot be fully realized by even the greatest virtuosos, and these Luxembourg players and their conductor aren't exactly big names. Still, if you are exploring the wild output of one of the 20th century's most original composers, this series makes it easy.

"Akrata" for 16 winds and 8 brass (1965) is the earliest work here. Rigorously based on mathematical principles which interested the composer, it consists mainly of long-held, flutter-tongued notes arising from various players in the ensemble. The shifting configurations really exploit the performance space, a fine quality which comes through even on this stereo recording. Xenakis' "Erikhthon" for piano and 88 musicians (1974) is very different, though still dating from Xenakis' strong period of mathematically inspired works. It features a constantly roaming piano line interacting with fierce glissandi in strings. This is the aggressive pandemonium that has endeared Xenakis to a segment of Varese and modern noise music fans.

Against the scoring of "Erikhton", where the instruments diverge every which way, the last two pieces sound like everything is being played in unison. In the composer's dotage, he settled into a predictable style where chords like great big crystalline blocks slowly move in stepwise fashion. "Ata" (1987) dates from this period, but though it generally conforms to Xenakis' late concerns, it's got a variety and passion to it that has kept it more fresh than other pieces for the same time. "Krinoidi" (1991) on the other hand is very typical of the late style. It's not bad music, and in fact with its fairly calm air the piece will probably appeal to a wider audience than most Xenakis. However, if you're collecting the entire orchestral output of this composer, as buyers of these Timpani discs are likely doing, then you'll probably find "Krinoidi" rather generic.

Newcomers to Xenakis should probably start with "Metastasis" and "Jonchaies". Nonetheless, the works here are generally satisfying and will entertain fans of this singular figure.


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