Iannis Xenakis


mode 80

Xenakis Edition 4 – Piano Works



mode 80 Iannis XENAKIS: Xenakis Vol.4Complete Piano Music — (Herma, Evryali, Mists, A.r.) plus Dikhthas for violin & piano (Jane Peters, violin); Palimpsest for piano & ensemble (Society for New Music/Charles Peltz). Aki Takahashi, piano.  Series Aki Takahashi Vol.2. (Reissue)
*Winner of the Diapason d’or Prize   96/24logo

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Xenakis Edition 4 - Piano Works
Biographical and program notes in English, French, and German ([26] p.) inserted in container. Includes program notes. Mode Records: mode 80 (additional no. on container spine: X-4) Music for piano solo, piano and violin, or piano and instrumental ensemble. Streaming audio. Title from image of compact disc cover on Web page (viewed Nov. 21, 2008) Aki Takahashi, piano ; Jane Peters, violin (2nd work) ; The Society for New Music, Charles Peltz, conductor (4th work) Recorded Mar. 28-30, 1998, Carnegie Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh (1st, 5th-6th works); Apr. 5, 1998, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Syracuse, N.Y. (4th work); and Feb. 24-25, 1999, Troy Music Hall, Troy, N.Y. (2nd-3rd works) Also available as compact disc; previously issued as Mode mode 80.

Xenakis Edition Vol. 4

Newly Mastered and Reissued with Additional World Premier Recording

Evryali (1973)   (9:51)

Dikhthas (1979)   (14:37)
for violin & piano
Jane Peters, violin

Herma (1960-61)   (7:43)

Palimpsest (1979)   (12:41)
for piano, 6 drums, winds & strings
The Society for New Music
Charles Peltz, conductor

Six Chansons pour piano (1950-51)
Ça sent le musc… (1:07)
J’avais un amour autrefois… (1:13)
Une perdrix descendait de la montagne… (1:39)
Trois moines crétois… (2:25)
Aujourdui le ciel est noir… (2:46)
Sousta, danse (1:36)

Mists (1980)   (12:51)
first recording

A.r. (Hommage à Ravel) (1987)   (2:31)

Aki Takahashi, piano

“Fasten your seat belts. This is one real roller coaster of a disc. Aki Takahashi plunges into Evryali as though her life depended on it…” wrote Ivan Moody in his International Record Review review of this disc’s original 1999 release.

This reissue now contains an added piece: the first recording of Xenakis’s 12 minute 6 Chansons, charming early miniatures written while Xenakis was studying in Paris with Messiaen and Milhaud. They provide a glimpse at Xenakis’s early musical interests, influences and roots, documenting a distinct kinship with the piano music of Debussy and Bartók.

24-bit audiophile remastering.

This is the first time Xenakis’s complete works for solo piano have been collected on a single disc.

They are brilliant, virtuoso masterworks of the 20th century piano literature, whose characteristic traits can be described as “clouds,” “sound masses,” “nebulae” and galaxies – sounds that are highly expressive and compelling, marked by both the composer’s heart and brain.

Diabolically difficult to play, Xenakis himself considered Evryali “…a kind of athletics for hands, body and brain”. Its sheer virtuosity and the brilliantly full sound embraces the extreme registers of the keyboard.

Mists indeed invokes its title. It is a work of full of voluminous, opaque clouds interspersed with transparent, pointillistic nebulae; a sonic haze of subtle textures.

Herma’s dazzling virtuosity, increasing in speed and intensity, culminates in an outburst of sound requiring the performer to produce an evenness of touch in the piano’s extreme registers while playing up to 20 notes a second.

Dikhthas takes advantage of the nature of its two instruments, providing a piano part full of clusters and dense textures while assigning the violin portamento, glissandi, harmonics and quarter-tones. It explores a colorful sonic environment with virtuoso runs for both instruments.

Palimpsest is a sort-of concerto for piano and chamber orchestra, the piano as the lead instrument pits itself against the energetic sounds of the ensemble.

A.r. was commissioned by Radio France for the 50th anniversary of Ravel’s death. Its conciseness and virtuosity make it an ideal encore piece.


Iannis Xenakis
Complete Works for Piano Solo

Aki Takahashi (piano)
Jane Peters (violin)
Mode 80

There’s a touching spiritual link back to Herma’s roots on Aki Takahashi’s Mode disc. The piece was composed for her father Yuji Takahashi, but Aki herself can’t match Helffer’s near-superhuman grandeur. However there’s a fine performance of Palimpsest,Xenakis’s 1979 work for piano and ensemble, with punchy playing from The Society Of New Music under Charles Peltz.

Violinist Jane Peters joins Takahashi for a performance of the violin/piano duo Dikhthas (1979), but where Peters tickles, Arditti stabs – and The Arditti Quartet were born to play Xenakis.
— Philip Clark, The Wire, July, 2006

Iannis Xenakis
Complete Works for Piano Solo

Evryali; Dikhthas; Herma; Palimpsest; Mists; A.r.
Aki Takahashi (piano); Jane Peters (violin)
The Society for New Music
Charles Peltz
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
Mode 80

Sit at your piano with your left hand at the keyboard’s very bottom and your right hand at the very top, fingers stretched out in arduous chords, and hammer away in rapid irregular rhythms. That gives you an idea of what Xenakis’ piano music demands of Aki Takahashi, who is very much up to the task. Evryali is a diabolical endurance test, but also tremendously engaging in its toccata-like perambulation of the keyboard. Takahashi conjures a colorful dynamic range in Herma, a piece commissioned by the pianist’s brother Yuji, and in the strange A.r. (Hommage à Ravel) which bears only a slight resemblance to Ravel in its imaginative sequences of held chords. Violinist Jane Peters matches Takahashi’s formidable energy for the dazzling wild ride of Dikhthas (“dual” in Greek), and Palimsest’s polyrhythms become razor-sharp in Takahashi’s version with The Society for New Music. Even the bizarre liner notes (“In the middle section, chains of sixty-four-notes and dyads in both hands cause a condensation”) can’t compare with the opacity of Xenakis’ own explanations of his music that involve sieve theory, Brownian movements, and hyperbolic-cosine law. Unless you’re into higher math, sit back (or bolt upright) and enjoy this brilliant album.
— Sarah Cahill, www.classicstoday.com

Iannis XENAKIS: Evryali, Dikhthas, Herma, Palimpsest, Mists, A.R. (Homage à Ravel)
Aki Takahashi (pf), Jane Peters (vln), Society for New Music, dir. Charles Peltz

What a friendly, jazzy piece Ms. Takahashi makes Evryali sound – its statistical rhythms and harmonies winging like a Greek Nancarrow. Altogether, this well-planned, extremely well-recorded recital, spanning nearly 30 years of Xenakis’s compositional career from Herma (1961) to his tiny Ravel Hommage of 1987, brings a welcome wit and elegance to works whose transcendental difficulty (not to mention their composer’s formidable intellectual and mathematcal reputation) have more often been made into endurance tests for respectful listeners. Perhaps nothing can be done to render hermetic Herma other than a classic essay in grimly pointillistic mathematical modernism, but even here the elegant precision of her playing imparts an aura of austere poetry.

Elsewhere, one is continually surprised to be reminded how much of Xenakis’s musical language relies on diatonic or near-diatonic formulations which, if they’re made to batter the ear, at least don’t contain too many sharp edges. Mists is an extraodinary neo-impressionistic toccata. Evryali ultimately a virtuoso tone-poem about the sea. The violin/piano duo Dikhthas seems a direct descendent of Bartok’s violin sonatas, and Palimpsest with its pounding drums and accumulating layers of instrumental texture, a wild little chamber piano concerto. What does this music lack? Not tunes, but repose – it’s exhausting to listen to such a disc straight through. But piece by piece, the excellent performances and the real range of expression make this as good an introduction to this still-controversial modern master as I can think of.
Colum MacDonald

Works for Piano

Aki Takahashi, piano

* * * *  The Greek composer Iannis Xenakis’ music is known for even more extreme explosions of energy, intense activity and unapologetic complexity, devised from his excursions into mathematical, architectural and scientific theories. On Works for Piano, Aki Takahashi confronts the classic “Herma” (like Boulez’s 2nd Piano Sonata and Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke, a pathbreaking pianistic display of European modernism) with impressive clarity; likewise, she finds convincing ways to balance the layers of opaque and transparent textures, knotty metrical riddles, mechanistic rhythms, and torrents of notes in the dazzlingly difficult “Evryali” and “Mists”.
—Art Lange, Classical Pulse!, June 2000

Mode 80
Iannis XENAKIS: Evryali, Dikhthas, Herma, Palimpsest, Mists, A.R. (Homage à Ravel)
Aki Takahashi (piano), Jane Peters (violin), The Society for New Music, dir. Charles Peltz
Rating 8/10 , 4/5
Il y a des familles où l’on a la vocation chevillée au corps! Yuji Takahashi, le dédiataire de Herma, reste une figure mytique parmi les interprètes qui ont eu à coeur de servir la musique de Xenakis. Sa <> soeur reprend ici flambeau qu’elle defebd d’ailleurs avec beaucoup de vaillance et de crédibilité, dans une publication réunissant toutes les oeuvres de Xenakis pour piano seul, auxquelles elle ajoute Dikhthas pour violin et piano, et Palimpsest. Le disque ne durant qu’un peu plus de soixante minutes, ile est dommage que n’y soient pas ajoutés l’autre piano duo Paille in the wind et le quatour Morisma-Amorisma, l’un et l’autre non enrigstrés à ce jour (on serait alors arrivé à environ 78 minutes d’enregistrement).

De manière générale, Aki Takahashi cultive une sonorité plus pleine et charnue les pionniers comme Helffer (Montaigne) ou son propre frère (Denon) qui mettainent plus en valeur l’architecture interne d’oeuvres comme Herma. On la sent très attentive au travail sur la résonance dans Mists, duquel elle fait émerger des nappes sonores quasi-impressionnistes, là où un Helffer restait volontairement dans une esthétique pianistique assez boulézienne et privilégiait plutôt un agglutinement des sons. Son interprétation la plus intéressante reste sans doute celle d’Evryali, où les apparitions irrégulières de certaines hauteurs – dues au graphisme des arborescences – ont le dynamisme, l’euphorie des musiques de gamelan balinais.

La seule réserve qu’appelle l’ensemble de sa prestation concerne le choix de tempos plutôt lents: cette option parmet dans certains cas une meilleure lisibilité des structures, mais nuit à la dynamique génèrale. Il s’ensuit parfois une impression de lourdeur assez gênante.

Aki Takahashi tient néanmoins le haut de pavé parmi les interprètes de la <<deuxième génération>> qui s’attaquent au répertoire xenakien apès les <> des débuts. De plus, son enregistrement présente l’intérêt de réunir toutes les oeuvres pour piano seul de ce compositeur, démarche qui n’avait jusqu’alors été accomplie que par Claude Helffer dans le coffret publié avec le Quatour Arditti.
—Anne-Sylvie Calvet, Répertoire, Juillet/Août 2000

Works for Piano

Aki Takahashi (piano), Jane Peters (violin), The Society for New Music, Charles Peltz
Winner “Diapson d’or” award
Mode 80

C’est un disque aussi utile qu’impressionnant que nous offre ici Aki Takahashi (interprète depuis longtemps émérite de Xenakis), en réunissant l’oeuvre pianistique du compositeur. Du terrible et ardu Herma (composé en 1960-1961 et réputé alors à peu prés injouable), jusqu’au court mais très sonore Hommage à Ravel, de 1987. Un parcours qui résume au mieux l’évolution – et plus encore la continuité – de Xenakis. D’un bout à l’autre s’impose un piano résolument sonore, impressionnant de virtuosité et de puissance, aride dans son intransigeance, ses gestes forcenés. Deuxième grand pièce pianistique du Xenakis, Evryali (1973) est à ce titre examplaire, déroulant un geste martelé et une énergie formidable don’t après Claude Helffer (Montaigne 782005) Aki Takahashi rend à merveille la grandiose obsession, la tension libératrice. Telle encore apparaît la troisième pièce, Mists (1980), long solo ébouriffé où alternent de gros nuages sonores, des nébuleuses pointillistes volubiles et des superpositions contrapuntiques affolées. A cette écriture extrême, qui de l’intsrument des récitals et des salons tire des horizons harmoniques abrupts et insensés, il n’érait pas absurde de mêler deux pièces ou le piano occupe encore un place de choix; le duo Dikhthas (1979) et le merveilleux Palimpsest (1979 également).  Une musique âpre, traversée par une même énergie, une même violence tragique.
TECHNIQUE: 5,5 – Bien que la définition soit bonne, l’image est assez dispersée, faute d’une localisation précise. Palimpsest manque d’homogénéité acoustique.
— Alain Galliari, Diapason, May 2000

Iannis Xenakis: Complete Solo Piano WorksAki Takahashi, Piano
Mode 80

“Das wissenschaftliche Denken gibt mir ein Instrument an die Hand, mit dem ich meine Vorstellungen nicht-wissenschaftlichen Ursprungs verwirkliche.” Wohl kaum ein anderer Komponist hat antike Vorstellungen von der Allgegenwart der Zahl so produktiv in die Gegenwart getragen und seine Arbeit derart entschieden auf ein technisch-mathematisches Fundament gesetzt wie Iannis Xenakis. Und das, langem Unverständnis zum Trotz, nicht allein zur konstruktiven Absicherung von Form und Gehalt, sondern im Sinne konkreter Herstellungsverfahren von Klang. Längst zu einem “Klassiker” der neuen Musik geworden, bringt der einstige Ingenieur, Architekt und Le Corbusier-Assistent immer noch höchst wirkungsvoll Kunst und Wissenschaft, Sinnlichkeit und Zahlenspiel in Einklang: Grafische Skizzen, computertechnische Berechnungen, architektonische Entwürfe oder mathematische Modelle generieren die Verläufe einer Musik, die andererseits der “Wissenschaft” ihre ästhetische Dimension abgewinnt. Mathematik ist Poesie, “das Schöne” mathematisch, der Komponist ein “artiste concepteur”. So kommen Xenakis’ klangliche “Endergebnisse” bekanntlich alles andere als kühl daher, sondern strotzen nur so vor scheinbar ungebändigten Energien, auch wenn diese inzwischen gezähmteren Impulsen folgen als in den 50er Jahren.

Jetzt finden sich erstmals die wenigen Kompositionen für Soloklavier (Herma, Evryalis, Mists, A.r.) auf einer CD, gekoppelt mit Dikthas (für Violine und Klavier) und Palimpsest. Die meisten von ihnen (entstanden 1960-80) fußen auf Xenakis’ Technik der Verzweigungsstrukturen (“arborescences”), die – als visuelles Ausgangsmodell Baumdiagrammen ähnlich – vielschichtige Räume aus wuchernden Skalen-/Akkordbewegungen entwirft. Aber auch Gesetzmäßigkeiten der Mengenlehre und Stochastik können in Herma Fluktuationen und Metamorphosen von Klang verantworten, die unterschiedlichste Farb- und Dichteverhältnisse produzieren.

Aki Takahashi bewältigt mit äußerster Virtuosität und vehementer, zupackender Geste die oft als unspielbar betrachteten Stücke und belegt eindrücklich, warum Xenakis’ Klangsprache trotz der enormen Abstraktheit ihrer theoretischen “Grundsteinlegungen” sich als unmittelbare Expression and den Hörer wendet. Dennoch ist Palimpsest (1979) für Klavier, Schlaginstrumente, Bläser und Streicher der Höhepunkt der Einspielung, da ein Instrumentarium mit größerem Farbenspektrum die mehrdimensionalen Schichtungen in Xenakis’ Musik letztlich doch aufregender zum Ausdruck bringt als das Klavier allein.

— Dirk Wieschollek, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Juli/August 2000

English synopsis of the above review  by Wieschollek:

A “classic” of new music for a long time, Xenakis, the former engineer, architect and assistant of Le Corbusier, still reconciles art and science, sensuality and number games with one another most impressively . Now his few compositions for piano solo (Herma, Evryalis, Mists, A.r.) combined with Dikthas and Palimpsest for piano and instruments are available on CD for the first time . With utmost virtuosity and vehement, committed gesture, Aki Takahashi conquers the pieces which are often declared unplayable and impressively proves why Xenakis’s sonic language appeals to the listener as a direct expression, despite the enormous abstractness of its theoretical foundations. Yet, Palimpsest (1979) for piano, percussion, winds and strings is the climax of the recording, since an instrumentation with a greater color spectrum eventually reveals the multidimensional layers in Xenakis’s music more excitingly than the piano alone.

— Dirk Wieschollek, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (July/August, 2000)

Piano Works
Aki Takahashi (piano), Jane Peters (violin), Society for New Music/Charles Peltz
Mode 80 – 60:43 DDD

It is very sad that, now in his 78th year, the onset of Alzheimer’s disease has stopped Iannis Xenakis from producing his unique pieces. He trained both as a musician and an architect and applied the ideas of his mentor, the visionary architect Le Courbusier, to his music. Pianist Aki Takahashi’s approach to these pieces seems to emphasise this architectural aspect of Xenakis’ music, making the structural flow of the pieces as clear as she can. This diligent approach means that these performances do not have the red-blooded recklessness shown by Claude Helffter in his Disques Montaigne set. However both outlooks seem equally valid and show different facets of these incredibly difficult and complex works.

The performance of Palimpsest, for piano and ensemble, is gripping in its emotional and sonic intensity and the set is only let down by a rather hesitant version of Dikhthas for violin and piano. Jane Peters cannot match Irvine Arditti’s volcanic performance with Helffter.

**** Performance
***** Sound
Verdict: Impressive and committed performances, let down by one piece
Alternatives: Claude Helffter/Arditti Quartet (Disques Montaigne)
— Philip Clark, Classic CD, July 2000

Works for Piano
Mode 80

Evryali(a), Dikthas (c), Herma (d), Palimpsest (b), Mists (a), A.r. (a)Aki Takahashi (piano), Jane Peters (violin)(c), Society for New Music/Charles Peltz (b).Mode 80 (full price, 1 hour 1 minute). Producer: Brian Brandt, Engineers: (a)Riccardo Schulz, (b)Tatiana Libermann, (c)David Walters. Date: March 28th-30th, April 5th, 1998. February 24th-25th, 1999

Fasten your seat belts. This is one real roller coaster of a disc. Aki Takahashi plunges into Evryali as though her life depended on it, and perhaps it does: as Sabine Feisst’s notes observe, “Xenakis himself considers the  performance of it as a kind of athletics for hands, body and brain”. It is not merely staggering virtuosity, however. Xenakis’s use of ‘aborescence’, by which tree-shaped figures are transformed into melodic lines (which may surprise anyone who does not know the work by their diatonic character) are positively labryinthine; such high-level topiary means that exercise is also guaranteed for the listener. The other two large works for solo piano on the disc, Herma and Mists, belong to different categories. Herma was written in 1960-61, 22 years earlier than Evryali, and is what Xenakis calls ‘symbolic music’ in that it is related to symbolic logic and mathematics. It explores the textural possibilities of piano writing to their utmost, though Takahashi takes its amazing virtuoso demands in her stride. Mists was written in 1980, and also uses ‘aborescence’, though in a different way from Evryali, in combination with the use of sieve theory. While moments of hazy repose and pointillistic writing do literally suggest the mists of the title, the work is notable for its energetic rhythmic writing and its considerable contrasts of texture and atmosphere.

Dikhthas (1979) pits the violin and piano against each other in the most extraordinary way, the filigrees and glissandos of the former shimmering over the pachyderm density of the latter. When the two instruments do come together, as in their mutual exploration of the note D some minutes into the work, the effect is to emphasize more strongly the colourful exuberance of the surrounding polyphonic jungle. Jane Peters gives an astonishing performance, ideally accompanied by Takahashi. Palimpsest, also from 1979, is scored for piano, six drums, wind and strings, and has something in common with the luxuriant Evryali while creating its own, very distinctive sound-world. The performance is superb, and ideally caught in this recording. A triumphant addition to Mode’s Xenakis series.
— Ivan Moody, International Record Review, June 2000


Iannis Xenakis on Mode:
Iannis Xenakis Profile/Discography

Charles Peltz on Mode:
John Cage: The Piano Concertos (mode 57)
John Cage: The Orchestral Works 2 (mode 86)
Michael Colgrass / Gunther Schuller: Déjà vu (mode 125)
Peter Maxwell Davies: Le Jongleur de Notre Dame (mode 59)
Arthur Honegger: Christoph Colomb (mode 35)

Aki Takahashi on Mode:
Aki Takahashi plays Morton Feldman (mode 54)
Giacinto SCELSI: The Piano Works 3 (mode 159)

Charles Peltz Profile
Jane Peters Profile
The Society for New Music Profile
Aki Takahashi Profile