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Xenakis - Works for Strings

Iannis Xenakis , Johannes Kalitzke , Resonanz Ensemble Audio CD

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Song Title Time Price
Listen  1. Syrmos12:04Album Only
Listen  2. Aroura11:05Album Only
Listen  3. Voile 5:060.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  4. Theraps13:45Album Only
Listen  5. Analogique A + B 6:460.79  Buy MP3 
Listen  6. Ittidra 8:42Album Only

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Confronting Xenakis 23 Oct 2005
By greg taylor - Published on
Format:Audio CD
I have a theory that one of the best ways to introduce your ears to a new composer is to listen to their string music. There is something about this type of music that seems to bring out the more austere and characteristic qualities of a composer.
I am just beginning to listen deeply to Xenakis so I cannot assert with any certainty that my theory holds true in his case but I believe it does.
Xenakis has to be one of the most iconoclastic yet accessible of modern classical composers. In a famous early essay, he rejected the serialist approach and seemed equally unimpressed with the centuries old traditions of classical harmony. He believed that in the 20th century, the new source of truth was to be found in scientific and mathematical investigations. He therefore believed that whatever music had to offer in the future would be found in more mathematically based forms of composing.
It is also obvious that his compositional technique had a strong visual component. From his early career in architecture and his fascination with mathematical graphing he derived visual inspirations which he then would try to translate into musical material using various probability techniques, etc..
But finally and equally important, he had this enormous unique musical aesthetic that was the final arbiter. He definitely rejected anything approaching the randomness of a Cage.
Everyone of the pieces on this CD displays the power and musicality of Xenakis' approach to composition.
Consider the first piece, Syrmos, written as a catalogue of string technique. It starts out with a massed chord sounding like a very odd dissonant accordian. The various strings then take off in Xenakis' trademark glissandi that are all of different durations and interval range. The effect is like the swooping of a flock of birds. There are mad massed clouds of plucked stings, bowing of varying pressures producing different tonal qualities and odd harmonics. It is at times ominous, exhilarating and very beautiful. To me this is a wholly successful piece.
Analogique A + B is an instance of a piece visually inspired by graphical techniques. In this case, Xenakis derived not just a piece for 9 string players (A) but also the same piece in sine waves on tape (B). The two pieces are played together. Because of the extended bowing techniques it is difficult to tell them apart. This strikes me as a piece of great whimsy with much plucking of the strings. It would be a wonderful piece to see choreographed.
Ittidra is dedicated to Irvine Arditti and was first performed by the Arditti Quartet (augmented) on the collection of Xenakis' chamber music on Montainge (also highly recommended). Lots of sustained dissonant chordal effects without enough development (to my ears) to justify its length. Let's face it- truely innovative musicians will usually produce music of uneven qualities.
I do want to end on a high note and mention Theraps the contrabass solo performed by John Eckhardt. This piece needs to be played loud. There is much use of dynamics and silence. But every possible quality of the wood tone has been explored by the end of the piece. This piece requires concentration and seems to wander sometimes but for me it has a unique richness. I would love to hear someone perform this.
So, to sum up. Easy listening? Oh, hell no. If you want easy listening, Xenakis may not be your guy. If you want a gentle introduction to Xenakis, you may want to start with his Ensemble Music 1 and 2 (also on Mode) or with some of the orchestral works. But I would claim that listening to these pieces or those on the previously mentioned Arditti CD might open up your ears to all that Xenakis has to offer, to his musical core. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Architectures made out of sound. 25 April 2006
By Paco Yez - Published on
Format:Audio CD
There's no doubt about Iannis Xenakis (Braila, Romania, 1922 - Paris, France, 2001) is one of the greatest composers in the XXth Century, creator of a large work full of originality and rigor, that make of him one of the references in the last decades for composers all over the world in the last years.

Every new CD by Xenakis is an occasion, specially if this CD combines, like in this case, a first compilation on CD, a world premiere recording (Ittidra) and these very excellent performances conducted by the great conductor of contemporany music Johannes Kalitzke. The works taken in this recording represents 37 years in the career of Iannis Xenakis, from Syrmos (1959) to Ittidra (2006), a period that means quite all the life of Xenakis as composer, and that shows how he thought and created in the chamber music field, that one in which Xenakis used to experiment very much for his largest works.

1959, first year present in this CD, will be crucial for Xenakis, because it's in this moment when he decides to choose the way of the composition as his main creative activity, after being some years working as an architect with Le Corbusier; from that years we have some architectonical jewel like the 'Philips Pavilion' in the World Fair of Brussels (1958).

Syrmos, from that year, is a really 'summa xenakiana' of instrumental techniques for strings, those he became to use systematically in the `50s, and with which he made a little revolution with his piece Metastaseis (1953-54). Syrmos is a step forward in that way, with a language based in series of glissandi realized to multiple directions, continue dissonances, clusters formed by tremolo and pizzicato, col legno of a very intense beat against the instrument, great dynamic ranges, etc., that form this outstanding piece for 18 strings of an enormous richness y virtuosity.

From his scientific studies in mathematics, physics and architecture, are taken various principles that Iannis Xenakis will apply to the music composition, like the construction of analogies in tape of string sounds, with intermediate process to calculate them mathematical process, as we listen in Analogique A+B, too from this crucial 1959, where a group of nine strings plays with interpolation of them sounds treated and transformed in tape. Piece of a great importance in Xenakis' electronic music, it results even nowadays very interesting and with a very strong and vivid energy, empowered in this CD by a very clean and present interpolation of the tape, that rank this work in a level of some early works for tape, like D?serts, by Edgar Var?se, or the Symphony n? 3 'Collages', by Roberto Gerhard.

Very interesting is too Theraps (1975-76), one of those works with which Xenakis loved to explore the limits of the instrument's techniques, like he did in Herma, for piano, or in the marvellous Nomos Alpha, for cello. Not being so wonderful like this Nomos Alpha, Theraps is, anyway, an outstanding and very demanding piece for double bass, an exploration of the possibilities that reach even microtones, something not very usually in the repertoire for this instrument.

Voile (1995) e Ittidra, are a clear example of Xenakis in the `90s: a man who continue applying principles of objectivity to create a music that moves out from any kind of easy sentimentalism, and at the same time, that creates an enormous poetical beauty, like we listen in these scores for 20 strings and for sextet. Absence de vibrato, researching of the space and sound, and the highly characteristics sound "buildings" of Xenakis join remembering of the left Greece and some sensation of nostalgia.

The performances by the Ensemble Resonanz are really outstanding, like it was waited from one of the groups with the best strings among central Europe, authentic specialists in this contemporary repertoire which they play with great clearness and with a great knowledge of these languages, the result of making modernity his usual performing period and space. The diverse and complex techniques demanding by Xenakis are played, in this CD, in performances remarkable and nowadays reference for every work.

The sound of this CD is really excellent, among the best I've listened in the last months in contemporary chamber music, something that make much more easy the right perception of these complex works of personal and new sonorities, in which the right recording and audition of a glissando's limit, of the percussion of the col legno, the right playing of a tremolo... is fundamental.

What we have to do now is enjoining this Mode CD, which I recommend really strongly and that I think will be one of the best in contemporary music in 2005-2006, and wait this series by the New York based label continue, a project that is, together with the one conducted by Tamayo for Timpani Recordings, the most interesting of Xenakis' music on CD nowadays. Wonderful booklet in the CD, with interesting texts written by Michael Struck-Schloen, in which is announced a DVD with percussion works by Xenakis as Mode's next release in this series; a DVD we hope we have as soon as possible.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent set for string ensembles larger than quartets and smaller than orchestras 18 July 2006
By Autonomeus - Published on
Format:Audio CD
There are now many discs documenting Xenakis's orchestral works, and the Arditti Quartet has recorded his few works for string quartet. This unique Mode disc collects 5 works for intermediate sized string ensembles, along with an amazing work for solo bass. The Ensemble Resonanz is superb, conducted by Johannes Kalitzke, and John Eckhardt's solo bass traversal of "Theraps" is superhuman.

The first two pieces, "Syrmos" for 18 strings (11'08" -- 1959) and "Aroura" for 12 strings (10'57" -- 1971) are phenomenal, maximum Xenakis, with raging glissandos, fiendishly complex interactions, and white-hot intensity. "Theraps" (13'37" -- 1975-76) includes more space, and is less relentless, but is equally impressive, and requires the utmost virtuosity to perform. "Analogique A+B" for 9 strings & tape (6'38" -- 1959) is not one of the best of Xenakis's electro-acoustic works, but is fascinating nonetheless.

The two remaining pieces, from Xenakis's late period, are less impressive. "Voile" for 20 strings (4'58" -- 1995) and "Ittidra" for string sextet (8'42" -- 1996) are in the same declamatory style as several other late Xenakis works for strings, including "Ata" and "Krinoidi" for orchestra (see my review of the Orchestral Works box). Xenakis turned to a simpler, more brutal style in his later years, and stopped employing sophisticated mathematics. As a rule, his compositions of the late 1980s and 1990s decline in quality.

The overall impact of MUSIC FOR STRINGS, though, is powerful. It is well worth hearing, whether as an addition to a Xenakis collection or as an introduction to the Xenakis soundworld.

See my XENAKIS: A Listener's Guide list for more by one of the three best composers of the late 20th century.
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing 21 May 2013
By Peter Gueckel - Published on
Format:Audio CD
I cannot add to the existing reviews except to add that this disk rivals and complements the Arditti Quartet's masterly Chamber Music, as there is no duplication between the albums.
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