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Taiagarù (1962)

Sauh I-IV(1973)


Marianne Schuppe (soprano)


New Albion 129 [50 mins]


These works for female voice are performed by Marianne Schuppe (mezzo soprano), a distinguished member of the second generation of Scelsi interpreters and a pupil of the great Japanese singer Michiko Hirayama who worked with the composer in the '70s (I have her original LPs). I was one of the first in UK to write about Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88) and I had the privilege of visiting him at his home in Rome.


The opening tracks on the disc (Sauh 1973, for voice with magnetic tape) feature Schuppe's voice, in impressive, polyphonic style. I would however advise those unfamiliar with this composer's methods to take the CD in the order I indicate above, with short pieces for solo voice unaccompanied first. This music repays the closest attention to its minute changes of timbre and micro-pitch.


In this, Scelsi's centenary year, there has been a renewal of interest and performances of his music, and I support the opinion of CPO's writer that "Giacinto Scelsi was one of the most individual voices in the history of music. His music stands outside the schools that responded to world events and exists as a monument to itself. Now, a hundred years from his birth, his music is still shocking; almost twenty years from his death, it is nearly fathomable - and clearly music."


The genesis of Scelsi's music, much of it created as improvisations, recomposed and transcribed into written scores, led to controversy and derogations by some that he was not a "real" composer. Only towards the very end of his life (he looked forward to reincarnation) were his demanding major works, for large orchestra, premiered, and they remain rarely performed.


He was given to mysticism and self-mystification and (unhelpful towards prospective biographers) claiming to be a vessel through which the music passed, and forbidding photographs of himself 'on pain of death!'.....


To read how obscure he still remained in the mid-80s in UK , see also Discovering Scelsi (Piano Journal 7/21: 1986)

For an important festival in Lisbon, June 2001, which puts this still enigmatic figure in perspective at the beginning of the new millennium, see our report about neglected composers To Portugal in quest of Scelsi (25th Gulbenkian Encounters of Contemporary Music), attended just before the inauguration of Musical Pointers,


Now Google has over 80,000 links to explore under Search for "Scelsi + CD". A posthumous success story!

© Peter Grahame Woolf