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CD Review

Iannis Xenakis

Musique de Chambre (1955-1990)

  • Tetras for String Quartet
  • Mists for Piano
  • Kottos for Cello
  • Herma for Piano
  • Embellie for Solo Viola
  • à r "Hommage à Ravel" for Piano
  • Mikka for Violin
  • Mikka "S" for Violin
  • Akea for Piano & String Quartet
  • Dikhthas for Violin & Piano
  • Tetora for String Quartet
  • Nomos Alpha for Cello
  • Ikhoor for String Trio
  • Evryali for Piano
  • St/4 for String Quartet
Claude Helffer, piano
Irvine Arditti, violin
Garth Knox, viola
Rohan De Saram, cello
Arditti String Quartet
WDR Disques Montaigne 782005 2:32:16 2CDs
Find it at AmazonFind it at Amazon UKFind it at Amazon GermanyFind it at Amazon CanadaFind it at Amazon FranceFind it at Amazon JapanFind it at CD Universe
Reissued on Na´ve Montaigne 782137: Amazon - UK - Germany - Canada - France - Japan - ArkivMusic - CD Universe - JPC

This is music that shocks and astounds. Coming from a country of violent contrasts, of blaring sunlight and rocky isles, of ancient democracy and chronic political persecution, is it any wonder Xenakis string quartets are so stark and unpredictable? His music is "stochastic;" which means its tones and melodies are calculated in advance by rules of probability set up by the composer. No matter how stark or frenetic the string quartet, it has a pattern to it. Often the pattern is harrowing, and sometimes, in the case of his music for solo violin, its high-pitched progressions are both humorous and spooky.

If there's any modern composer to whom you can compare Xenakis, it's Elliott Carter. Although Xenakis' works are shorter (sometimes only four minutes long), they pack a wallop similar to Carter's. Cubist and ominous, they can drive you away with a shout, only to coax you back with a crook of the finger. Their dwelling place is not the comfy alcoves of minimalism, but in the tortured caverns of passionate speech. Xenakis continuously reinvents himself. Listen to both piano quartets and see how radically they differ. One piano sonata is quiet and orderly, while another sounds like its evil twin, tearing up the place. Play this music when you need to be energized. Not recommended for a serene night at home.

Copyright © 1997, Peter Bates