Giacinto Scelsi


mode 227

Scelsi Edition 8: The Piano Works Vol. 4


mode 227 Giacinto SCELSI: The Piano Works 4 – Hispania “Triptyque pour piano” (1939); Suite No. 5 “Il Circo” (1935); Suite No. 6 “I Capricci di Ty” (1939) – Stephen Clarke, piano 96/24-bit

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Scelsi Edition 8: The Piano Works Vol. 4
(viewed Feb. 7, 2013). Stephen Clarke, piano. Recorded Nov. 29, 2008, Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada (3rd work) and Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, 2007, Teldex Studio, Berlin, Germany (remainder). Previously released as a compact disc.

Hispania “Triptyque pour piano” (1939)   (24:01)

Suite No. 5 “Il Circo” (1935)   (19:46)

Suite No. 6 “I Capricci di Ty” (1939)   (26:03)

Stephen Clarke, piano


Mode’s Scelsi Edition continues with the fourth volume devoted to his piano works — three first recordings of major, large scale works from his early period of the 1930s.

The piano plays a role of undeniable importance in Scelsi’s life and work. From 1930 to 1941, and again from 1952 to 1956, the composer produced an enormous repertoire for the instrument, including 40 Preludes, 11 Suites, four Sonatas, and many solo works. The works on this CD attest to his brilliance as an improviser, his sensitivity to rhythm and color, and the originality of his compositional identity.

Hispania is a fascinating work, where passages show some signs of Scelsi’s later style, yet other features remain more closely connected to earlier practice. The “tryptique pour piano” is arranged in three distinct movements, fast-slow-fast. While much of Scelsi’s work is highly chromatic, reflecting the influence of Scriabin and Berg, Hispania contains long passages of predominantly diatonic material, using mostly the white keys of the piano with very few accidentals. It also shows the influence of French neoclassicism and impressionism, with certain moments recalling the Spanish-themed works of Ravel and Debussy.

Suite No. 5: Il Circo or “The Circus,” an image that is full of possible connotations from the ancient (as in Rome’s Circus Maximus) to the exotic. Rhythm, an aspect of music which Scelsi held as equivalent to vitality, is the true shaping force in these short vignettes.

Suite No. 6: I Capricci di Ty takes more steps in the direction of Scelsi’s later minimalistic style, with entire movements focusing on this type of material, some with variable beats in each measure, and time signatures often omitted altogether. Ty was Scelsi’s nickname for his wife, Dorothy.

This audiophile quality recording was made using high-resolution 96khz/24-bit technology.

Liner notes by Benjamin R. Levy (in English, German & French).


Giacinto Scelsi – Piano Works 4
Stephen Clarke

Mode 227

Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) was a remarkable Italian innovator. His music is dissonant, improvisational, and often unorthodox rhythmically. Stephen Clarke’s virtuosity and artistic sensitivity are both evident on this disc of 1930s piano music by Scelsi.

The triptych Hispania (1939) opens by evoking flamenco guitar as it fans out from the pitches E-F. Clarke handles the “thrums,” ornaments, and “damped” tone clusters with panache. The wonderful slow movement starts at a slow tread, like a quest in the dark, and then becomes more agitated. Contrasting white-note modality prevails in the finale where slow chords effect peaceful closure

I particularly enjoyed Suite No. 5, “The Circus” (1935). These miniatures are appropriately gestural, at times dance-like. The 5th piece has a profusion of acrobatic arpeggios, leaping up higher and higher until they cover the instrument’s full range. The 6th is a tarantella like no other that rumbles in the depths! The last piece to me has hints of fascist marches at a time when World War Two approached. Clarke captures well the work’s whimsical and sometimes childlike sensibility.

Suite No. 6 (1939) has intriguing moments, though Scelsi’s trademark fast repeated notes here seem excessive. Yet Clarke has mastered them, as well as fiendish leaps to note clusters that differ slightly each time. Recorded in Berlin and Toronto, the disc is a labour of love whose recording quality equals that of the performances. I look forward to more Scelsi as the Mode Edition unfolds.

– Roger Knox,, February 2011


La «Hispania» de Giacinto Scelsi

En vida, Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) fue considerado un excéntrico aficionado cuyo inclasificable lenguaje musical no comulgaba con ninguna de las principales corrientes de la vanguardia. Hasta los años ochenta, la difusión de su obra fue practicamente nula y solo a partir de entonces su legado ha empezado a editarse y programarse con regularidad. Se trata, no obstante, de un proceso paulatino capaz todavía de reservar importantes sorpresas. Es el caso del cuarto volumen de piezas para piano que acaba de editar el sello Mode, y que recoge en primera grabación las Suites nº 5 y nº 6, y sobre todo el tríptico Hispania. Aunque tenía raíces españolas (era conde de Ayala Valva), Scelsi escribió en 1939 esta pieza sin haber visitado nuna España. Su conocimiento de la música española era indirecto, inferido a partir de las obras de Debussy (La serenade interrompue, La Puerta del Vino), Ravel (Alborada del gracioso) y Albeníz. En Hispania, Scelsi emplea materiales asimilables al folklore ibérico –ritmos obsesivos, líneas melódicas ornamentadas al estilo cante jondo…-pero la sintaxis, el contexto general y el desarrollo «energético» de la forma resultan muy scelsianos.

Determinados pasajes –el comienzo del primer movimiento, sin ir más lejos- suenan como improvisacioned que bien hubieran podido surgir de los dedos de Keith Jarrett. Y en la parte central del segundo movimiento (extraordinaria, por cierto, su conclusion), los trinos evocan más bien a Scriabin. Pero ello no impide que la pieza destile un difuso y vago aroma español, ajeno a todo tipismo e impregnado de un sesgo severo y contundente. Para el oyente español, esta Hispania de Scelsi tiene desde luego un morbo añadido; su escucha no le defraudará.

Menor interés reviste la Suite nº 5 «El Circo» (en allusion al Circo Máximo de la Antigua Roma): sus diez movimientos transiten una frenética actividad rítmica, que recuerda el estilo futurista de los comienzos del compositor. A un nivel mucho más alto rayan los quince episodios de la Suite nº 6 «I capricci di Ty» (Ty era el apodo con el que Scelsi llamaba cariñosamenta a su mujer): se trata de una obra dotaba de un virtuosismo arrollador e incandescente, con estallidos de telúrica violencia que subrayan la dimensión física del instrumento. El efecto de conjunto es impresionante.

Stefano Russomanno, ABC Magazine


Stephen CLARKE Profile

Stephen CLARKE on Mode Records:
Morton FELDMAN: Complete Works for Violin & Piano – with Marc Sabat. mode 82/83 (2-CDs)
Giacinto SCELSI: The Piano Works 2 – Action Music (1955); Suite No. 2 (1930). mode 143
Christian WOLFF: Complete Works for Violin & Piano – with Marc Sabat. mode 126

Giacinto Scelsi Profile