- Orchestra: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra
- Conductor: Lyndon-Gee
- Composer: Varese
- Audio CD (May 27, 2008)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Label: Naxos
- ASIN: B001716J0Q
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,621 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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Varese: Orchestral Works Vol. 2 - Ameriques; Ecuatoria; Ionisation
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Varese: Orchestral Works, Vol. 2 - Ameriques / Equatorial / Nocturnal / Ionisation
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The works on this recording span Varese' entire career, containing his sole surviving early composition, Un grand Sommeil noir, and his last, unfinished work, Nocturnal, brilliantly and seamlessly completed by the composer' disciple and assistant during t
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Lyndon-Gee's is simply the most dynamo-like, blood-curdling, brain-tripping performance of Amériques ever to appear in recording. To immerse oneself in the gorgeous cacophony of exotic percussion, growling low brass, skirling woodwinds, and polyphonically divided strings - to let one's blood beat with the rhythms and one's gooseflesh stand with the harrowing excitement - is to embark on something like a shaman's dream-journey, complete with demon-battles and the final confrontation with totemic gods. I have the intuitive certainty that were Varèse still with us he would applaud Lyndon-Gee and the Polish orchestra for having given an exact representation of his musical idea. Naxos offers the disc only in digital stereo (their policy of offering SACD alternatives in the case of such discs seems to have lapsed), but the sound quality rises to demonstration level. For example, the original score scatters small sub-orchestras all around the large orchestra. When these make themselves known in Lyndon-Gee's recorded performance, they sound genuinely as from a deep distance. Again, I have the intuition that this corresponds exactly to what Varèse wished. The original large-orchestra score should become the standard score for concerts, replacing the reduced score.
The smaller pieces come off with equal fidelity to Varèse's signature modernist neo-primitive style. Ecuatorial and Nocturnale both involve a chorus with orchestral accompaniment. (It is Varèse's typical wind-and-percussion orchestra, however, not the standard orchestra based on the string band.) Previous recordings of these two works gave a fair representation of the composer's sometime brutal and sometimes magical sonorities but none until Lyndon-Gee's has so punctilious observed the many weird instructions that the score indicates for the vocal performers especially. Ecuatorial sets a Mayan text (or what is supposed to be one) and conforms closely to the ritual pattern that Varèse so favored. Nocturnale, a setting of erotic prose by Anaïs Nin, overcomes the awkwardness of its text by creating a musical language in parallel with the surrealist literary bent that Nin tried to follow in her work. The music is better than the text. The disc offers three Varèse premieres: Dance for Burgess, Tuning Up, both short works for full orchestra, the first a mere bagatelle but the latter substantial; and the song for voice and piano, Un grand sommeil noir. The percussionists perform Ionisation and we get a performance of the solo flute piece, Density 21.5. A terrific program in every way - it would be a bargain at twice the asking price. Also check out Volume One, with Arcana, which is equally fine.
As regards Ameriques - this is a recording of the ORIGINAL version - not the revised version which is normally recorded. The two versions are close enough that the one could easily be mistaken for the other - except for the use of a "boat whistle" and the truncated ending. At least this version uses the correct type of police siren as called for in the score - and that alone makes it worth listening to.