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.