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Xenakis: Orchestral Works & Chamber Music- Ata / N'shima / Metastaseis / Ioolko / Charisma / Jonchaies Import

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, May 6, 2008
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Ata, for 89 musicians
  2. N'Shima, for 2 amplified voices, 2 amplified French horns, 2 tenor trombones & amplified cello
  3. Metastasis, for 60 musicians (Anastenaria, Part 3)
  4. Ioolkos, for 89 musicians
  5. Charisma, for clarinet & cello
  6. Jonchaies, for 109 musicians


Product Details

  • Audio CD (May 6, 2008)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Col Legno
  • ASIN: B00004SU52
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,250 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 16, 2008
Format: Audio CD
The Col legno label's "Orchestral works and chamber music" discs are usually overpriced and contain second-rate material. But on this collection of the music of Iannis Xenakis, we get several excellent pieces in historical performances, with surprising good sound quality.

Just for this recording of "Metastasis" alone the disc is worth for the price. This work, written for large orchestra between 1953 and 1954, was Xenakis' first mature effort. Of great proportions indeed, "Metastasis" has 61 instrumentalists playing 61 different parts. The opening is stunning, gradually each of the strings enters sustaining a single note, creating a massive wall of sound before some strings go astray via glissandi to other notes and pizzicato playing and the rest of the orchestra shows up. Closely related to the composer's design of the Couvent de la Tourette near Lyons, much of the dynamics of this first portion is based on the Fibonacci sequence, with nearly every decision in the work, from the structures of intervals to the length of dynamics and tones. The second section is more traditional, as the bulk of the orchestral forces remain silent with some strings playing a contrapuntal passage with drumrolls in the background and the occasional spotting of brass. This recording documents the world-premiere at the 1955 Donaueschinger Musiktage, where the SWF Symphony Orchestra conducted by Hans Rosbaud perform. While slightly lesser in sound-quality than the other two widely-available recordings, this one was considered to be the best by Xenakis, and even in 1950s mono sound it packs a tremendous punch.

Almost two decades passed between "Metastasis" and the next piece here. "Charisma" (1971) is written for clarinet, here Hans Deinzer, and cello, here the great Siegfried Palm.
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Format: Audio CD
This remains an excellent disc to introduce anyone to Xenakis, in particular anyone who doubts his significance in the history of composition! Contained on this (newly reissued) Col Legno collection is the original 1955 recording of "Metastaseis," perhaps Xenakis's single most important work. Using the Fibonacci series, it is based on the same fundamental calculations as the majestic pavilion for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels that Xenakis designed for Le Corbusier. Only eight minutes long, "Metastaseis," with its glissandos and clusters, illuminated explosively the sonic terrain first glimpsed in the raw dissonance of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" and Varese's spatial, rhythmic soundscapes. Included here are three more brilliant orchestral pieces, "Jonchaies" (1977), "Ata" (1987), and "Ioolkos" (1996). Also included are two chamber pieces, and while giving a fuller picture of Xenakis's music, it is the orchestral works which make this disc absolutely brilliant and essential.

From the mid-1950s on, Xenakis pursued his own path -- paradoxically complex and direct, fiercely confrontational music that captured and speaks of the intensity of the 20th century. While obscure in the U.S., Xenakis is recognized in Europe as one of the leading composers of his time. While I have heard some small ensemble works by X that I thought were mediocre, and his 1990s works generally decline in quality, I would say that his orchestral works, along with those of Carter and Ligeti, are the most radical, distinctive and characteristic of the late 20th century.

If you are seeking out Xenakis on the basis of his reputation as a pioneer of electronic music, you should know that there is no electronic music on this disc.
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Format: Audio CD
I really like the ferocity of the late work "Ioolkos", and it seems to hold up as one of the most vicious and forbidding of them. "Roai" may be darker, but "Ioolkos" is like a whirlwind of clusters being thrown around like a slow moving tornado. The sound isn't absolutely perfect, but surprisingly good, and there is even a big Sibelian Moment (thats what I'm calling those sudden outbursts of melody in late Xenakis). I wish Tamayo had covered it!

"N'Shima" is also good here, and compare well with the version on Mode. This one might just be that much more cool and woah-man, but the Mode is commendable too.

The rest of the pieces were fine at the time, but the "Metastaseis" is available on the 'Alpha&Omega' Box, and Tamayo's "Ata" is so much more deliciously recorded, though, it's always nice to have a compare. This was my first hearing of "Ata", and I loved its unique energy, the second realization of 'Late Xenakis' after "Horos", this one has such energy to it, like a neat cousin of "Jonchaies". To me it sounds like Xenakis's tribute to Stravinsky- it's very 1913.

"Charisma" here is actually my favourite version because of the reverberant acoustic, which lends more drama to this most static howler.

"Metastaseis" here is the classic version, but I must point you to the new Tamayo- I just think Tamayo has 50 of this piece to work with and with his recording and the colors he gets from the orchestra, I have to recommend Tamayo as the new modern, definitive version. Otherwise, Rosbaud's the best. Bornstein's ok, a bit off maybe, but also very nicely recorded. I do also like the classic old LeRoux version. It's an awesome, apocalyptic piece.

This is still a MUST HAVE Xenakis recital. But don't spend $1000!!

VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
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