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Giacinto Scelsi: Preludi, Serie I – IV

Alessandra Ammara (Piano)

ARTS SACD CD 47721-8

Giacinto Scelsi (1905 – 1988) is one of the twentieth century’s most underrated composers, a musical mind that certainly deserves wider recognition not only in the field of contemporary music but also that of all music and perhaps philosophy too.

Consequently, I was really pleased to receive Alessandra Ammara’s World Premiere Recording of Scelsi’s 4 Series of Piano Preludes (Preludi, Serie I – IV) and even more pleased to discover two positive reviews of this disc at Music Web. It might seem unusual for an all-Scelsi disc to receive so much interest, but on hearing the CD and reading the wonderfully insightful, musicological introduction in the booklet that accompanies the CD, one can easily see why.

This disc is, in fact, a series of 50 very short preludes that help paint a different picture of Scelsi’s creative oeuvre, that of his earlier years. These pieces depict very clearly some of his earlier influences such as Scriabin, Messiaen and Schoenberg. In addition to the musical context of these preludes, one can, nevertheless, also see early glimpses of the master’s later works, especially his gift for creating mystical atmospheres. However, to put it simply, these are short pieces with many notes that are in contrast to the unmistakable trademark of his later long pieces constructed using single tones.

Furthermore, the fact that these preludes span across almost two decades of Scelsi’s creative output adds a very unique musicological spin to this cycle and to this recording. Couple that with the fact that most of these preludes were, in fact, unpublished, and some of them were even notated using trusted performers dedicated to Scelsi, and you get the perfect Scelsi scenario: that of the mystery and secrecy that have always surrounded his life and his works.

Ms Ammara is certainly a very accomplished pianist, especially in regards to the late classical and early romantic repertoire. This particular experience serves the purpose of this music perfectly, and her transparent technique is a wonderful match for these preludes. The musical context of all preludes very much favours performers with a more “classical” interpretation. Nevertheless, her ability to change tone swiftly and naturally, her impeccable phrasing and her good sense of textural balance help bring out very poetic aspects of this music and make for a really strong interpretation.

On listening for a second time to the whole CD from beginning to end, it really did feel like a well-intended and designed musical program, and there is undoubtedly a natural continuity between all preludes. Since these preludes are also presented in chronological order, the listener can also experience a very gradual, unique and natural evolution of style. In some ways, this disc is more than a 70 + minute musical journey; it is a much longer one. It is a journal of a great composer’s evolution, a historical testament, and, as such, it is so much more than just another music CD.

Evis Sammoutis
Evis Sammoutis is a Cyprus-based composer whose Dimorphism for two violins was inscribed In memoriam Giacinto Scelsi.

A group of the Preludi is also included in Donna Amato's survey of Scelsi's piano music 1936-1940: Scelsi Collection Vol 4 - 12 Preludi, Variationi e Fuga, Capriccio, Poemi, Rotativa Stradivarius SVS 33804

See another review of this disc and also our extensive reviewing of Scelsi's music by Googling:- 124 for "scelsi musical pointers woolf" [Editor]