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Xenakis: Percussion Works

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 17, 2006
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Disc 2
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Product Details

  • Performer: Steven Schick, red fish blue fish
  • Composer: Iannis Xenakis
  • Audio CD (October 17, 2006)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Label: Mode
  • ASIN: B000HRMEKK
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,389 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
It's curious how collections of a composer's collected works for a given instrumentation by any given performer(s) are rarely as satisfying. Either other performances scattered disparately are superior, or among the collected works there are outright mediocre achievements. Such is the case with this Mode 3-disc set of Iannis Xenakis' percussion works, all he produced except his disappointing last piece "O-Mega" written while he was succumbing to Alzheimer's. No composer in the late 20th century produced as many groundbreaking works for percussion as Xenakis, and besides delighting percussion students with their virtuoso demands, they're often supremely enjoyable listening.

"Psappha" (1976) has variable instrumentation. It begins with a section of rhythmic noodling, followed by an exceedingly slow portion where plenty of silence is left after each drumbeat for maximum impact. The main of the work, however, consists of a gradual buildup towards what many have perceived as gamelan-inspired music. The major recording to compare this to is Gert Mortensen's on a BIS disc. The timings are quite different, as Mortensen's performance is 11 minutes, while Schick's clocks in at 14 minutes. While Schick's balance is often admirable, generally it all feels too slow when Mortensen is like some kind of machine. I also prefer Mortensen's instrumentation, especially towards the end when its a fury compared to Schick's much tamer cowbell extravaganza.

"Rebonds A & B" for percussion solo (1989) is one of the most memorable works of Xenakis late period. But Schick's performance seems overly cautious, not embracing the abandonment and rich bodily expression of the piece.
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Format: Audio CD
Steven Schick is acknowledged as one of the major Xenakis experts. There will certainly be (and is in other reviews) a wide range of opinions as to "who does the best Xenakis on percussion." Comparisons, while inevitable, are futile because of the nature of Xenakis' music. As a composer, Xenakis left so much open and up to the performer's interpretation; so much so that different versions can often be very different.

As for this massive set, it's a grand undertaking. On the positive side the recording quality is crisp, and the performances are generally excellent, with spirit. Schick himself has a grasp on the often difficult forms that Xenakis employs. Having been trained as an architect, Xenakis often 'constructs' his scores as one would buildings. Indeed, these are some of the most 'unpercussion' percussion works. Xenakis, by being a non-percussionist, has managed to move away from so many of the typical percussive cliches that often overwhelm contemporary percussion music. He has in fact managed to create his own percussive language (as well as instruments, like the 'Sixun" in Pleiades).

On the negative side, it's a bit pricey for the CD set (but a bargain for the download).

Yes, there are other equally excellent and impressive recordings of many of these pieces (Mortensen, Caneiro, Ueno, Kroumata, etc.--and people will prefer some versions over others), but where else are you going to find all of them in one set??? Highly recommended for fans of percussion music and Xenakis' works.

~ Michael Bettine
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I have held off from this set until now. I have certainly a minds' eye view of what I thought it was going to sound like, and it does sound really really good. The sonics here are outstanding, with a superbly lit stage and tight-ish acoustic (that opens up a bit in 'Persephassa'). It's just another stellar Mode recording, move on!

CD1

'Persephassa'

Les Percussions de Strasbourg (Philips)
Carnegie Mellon (Mode)
Demoe (Stradivarius)
red fish blue fish (Mode)

Straight up, this is pretty well now first choice. The famous multi-tracked ending is truly outrageously good, reminding me of 'La Legende d'Eer' more than anything. It's just incredible. And the instruments all sound great and the playing is superbly controlled.

The original PoS recording is a wonderfully primal black hole vortex, coming off like an ancient ritual, as intended (here, the Mode is just transcendent). This is still quite essential listening, but this Mode is obviously in a class by itself.

The first Mode ('Xenakis/Varese') has more reverb, and obviously just isn't as detailed, but is still quite good. But, this new one is just so much more perfect.

The Demoe just didn't move me so much, maybe I'll try again (it has a more pronounced spatial effect that either works or doesn't).

Anyhow, good choice opening up the set with this massive and spectacular rendering.

'Psappha'

Mortensen (BIS)
Sadlo (Teldec)
Schick (Mode)

I'm just shocked how slow Schick takes this 10 minute piece. At 14 minutes, he's still not as slow as Pugliese's 16! minutes, but, pretty much ONLY Mortensen (maybe Markus Hauke gets into the 10s) clocks in at 11 minutes, and it just sounds right, like a drummers' playing.
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