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Giacinto Scelsi

Anahit (1965)

In the year following Xnoybis for solo violin, Scelsi wrote his Violin Concerto, Anahit. The scoring of the orchestra is: two flutes, bass flute, English horn, clarinet, bass clarinet, two horns, trumpet, tenor saxophone, two trombones, two violas, two cellos, and two double basses. The solo violin is re-tuned to G-G-B-D, increasing the concentration required of the soloist considerably, and again notated string by string. Unusually for Scelsi, this work was also performed the year after it was written: in athens with Devy Erlih (the same man who had premiered Xnoybis in 1964) as soloist in 1966. The subtitle is "Lyric Poem dedicated to Venus" and Anahit is the ancient Egyptian name for Venus, as well as being the name of the main female deity in ancient Asia Minor.

The form of the work is reminiscent of the ternary architecture of Hymnos, though Anahit is in three distinct sections which are built on the golden section rather than linear symmetry. The work is thirteen minutes in length, the middle section being an extended cadenza for the solo violin centered at the golden section (i.e. the eight minute mark). In the two framing sections, the violin continues to operate in microtones and is supported harmonically by the orchestra. The first movement is predominately in G minor with the leading tone F# playing an important role; it starts slowly with the violin working out an ascending line, cadences in an orchestral interlude dominated by the brass at the golden section of this movement (i.e. just under the five minute mark), continues the preceding development, and then ends in another more subdued orchestral interlude just before the cadenza (beginning at the seven minute mark). After the beautifully ethereal microtonal cadenza, the second movement is predominately in G Major reaching to high F# and dominated throughout by the solo violin; this movement builds a sort of pulsating wave which recapitulates the previous material and fades away as the violin reaches high G.

Anahit is a beautiful, lyrical work and provides an interesting glimpse of Scelsi's use of the concerto format, with the soloist given over entirely to intense microtonal development and supported in harmony by the orchestral accompaniment.

Edited from materials originally posted to the Internet in 1992 by Todd McComb
Copyright © 1992-2000, Todd Michel McComb.