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Giacinto Scelsi ( ), Count of Ayala Valva (La Speziamarker, January 8, 1905 – Romemarker, August 9, 1988) was an Italianmarker composer who also wrote surrealist poetry in French.

He is best known for writing music based around only one pitch, altered in all manners through microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, and changes in timbre and dynamics, as paradigmatically exemplified in his revolutionary Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola ["Four Pieces on a single note"] (1959). His musical output, which encompassed all Western classical genres except scenic music, remained largely undiscovered even within contemporary musical circles during most of his life. A series of concerts in the mid to late 1980s finally premièred many of his pieces to great acclaim, notably his orchestral masterpieces in October 1987 in Cologne, about a quarter of a century after those works had been composed and less than a year before the composer's death -- Scelsi was able to attend the premières and personally supervised the rehearsals. The impact caused by the late discovery of Scelsi's works was described by Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich:

Dutch musicologist Henk de Velde, alluding to Adorno speaking of Alban Berg, called Scelsi "the Master of the yet smaller transition," to which Harry Halbreich added that "in fact, his music is only transition."

Life

Born in the village of Pitelli near La Spezia, Scelsi spent most of his time in his mother's old castle where he received education from a private tutor who taught him Latin, chess and fencing. Later, his family moved to Rome and his musical talents were encouraged by private lessons with Giacinto Sallustio. In Vienna, as a disciple of Arnold Schönberg, he became the first adept of dodecaphony in Italy, although he did not continue to use this composition system. In the 1920s, Scelsi made friends with intellectuals like Jean Cocteau and Virginia Woolf, and travelled abroad extensively. In 1927, in Egyptmarker, he first came into contact with non-European music. His first composition was Chemin du coeur (1929). Then followed Rotativa, first conducted by Pierre Monteux at Salle Pleyel, Parismarker, on December 20, 1931.

In 1937, he organised a series of concerts of contemporary music, introducing the music of (among others) Hindemith, Schönberg, Stravinsky, Shostakovitch, and Prokofiev to an Italian audience for the first time. Due to the enforcement of racial laws under the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini, these concerts were not able to continue for long, preventing the performance of works by Jewish composers. Scelsi refused to comply, causing the composer's gradual removal from Italy. In 1940, when Italy entered the war, Scelsi was in Switzerlandmarker, where he remained until the end of the conflict, composing and improving his conception of music. He married Dorothy Kate Ramsden, a divorced Englishwoman (whose daughter from her previous marriage was Katie Boyle).

Back in Rome after the war, his wife left him (eventually inspiring Elegia per Thy), and he underwent a profound psychic crisis that eventually led him to the discovery of Eastern spirituality and also to a radical transformation of his view of music, his so called second period. He rejected the notions of composition and author in favour of sheer improvisation. These improvisations, recorded on tape, were later transcribed by collaborators under his guidance, then orchestrated and complemented by the composer's meticulous performance instructions, or adjusted from time to time in close collaboration with the performers.

Scelsi came to conceive of artistic creation as a means of communicating a higher, transcendent reality to the listener. From this point of view, the artist is considered a mere intermediary. It is for this reason that Scelsi never allowed his image to be shown in connection with his music; he preferred instead to identify himself by a line under a circle, a symbol of Eastern provenance. Some photographs of Scelsi have emerged since his death.

From the late 1970s he met several leading interpreters who have promoted his music all over the world and gradually opened the gates to wider audiences, such as the Arditti String Quartet, the cellist Frances-Marie Uitti, the pianists Yvar Mikhashoff and Marianne Schroeder, and the singer Michiko Hirayama.

Scelsi was a friend and a mentor to Alvin Curran and other expatriate American composers such as Frederic Rzewski who lived in Rome during the 1960s (Curran, 2003, in NewMusicBox). Scelsi also collaborated with other American composers including John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown who visited him in Rome.

Alvin Curran recalled that: "Scelsi ... came to all my concerts in Rome even right up to the very last one I gave just a few days before he died. This was in the summer time, and he was such a nut about being outdoors. He was there in a fur coat and a fur hat. It was an outdoor concert. He waved from a distance, beautiful sparking eyes and smile that he always had, and that's the last time I saw him" (Ross, 2005).

Scelsi died in Rome on August 9, 1988.

Works

See List of compositions by Giacinto Scelsi.


Bibliography-
  • Le Poids net et l'Ordre de ma vie, Vevey, 1945
  • Sommet du feu, Rome, 1947
  • Le Poids net, éditions GLM (Guy Levis Mano), 1949
  • L'Archipel Nocturne, éditions GLM, 1954
  • La conscience aiguë, éditions GLM, 1962
  • Cercles, Éditions Le parole gelate, Rome, 1986


Actes Sud published the writings of Giacinto Scelsi in three volumes, the majority of which are now out of print:
  • L'homme du son, poetry edited and with commentary by Luciano Martinis, with collaboration from Sharon Kanach. Actes Sud 2006,
  • Les anges sont ailleurs, writings on Scelsi's life, music and art. Actes Sud, 2006.
  • Il Sogno 101, an autobiography. Actes Sud.


Selected discography

Accord/Universal-Musidisc

  • Œuvre intégrale pour choeur et orchestre symphonique (1. Aion - Pfhat - Konx-Om-Pax, 2. Quattro Pezzi - Anahit - Uaxuctum, 3. Hurqualia - Hymnos - Chukrum). Orchestre et chœur de la Radio-Télévision Polonaise de Cracovie, conducted by Jürg Wyttenbach (recorded 1988, 1989 and 1990; ref. 201692, 1992, 3 CDs: 1. ref. 200402, 1988 2. ref. 200612, 1989 3. ref. 201112, 1990; re-released by Universal-Musidisc in 2002)
  • Elegia per Ty - Divertimento nº3 pour violon - L’Âme ailée - L’Âme ouverte - Coelocanth - Trio à cordes. Zimansky, violin; Schiller, viola; Demenga, cello (ref. 200611, 1989)
  • Quattro illustrazioni - Xnoybis - Cinque incantesimi - Duo pour violon et violoncelle. Suzanne Fournier, piano; Carmen Fournier, violin; David Simpson, cello (ref. 200742, 1990)
  • Suite No.8 (Bot-Ba) - Suite No.9 (Ttai). Werner Bärtschi, piano (ref. 200802, 1990)
  • Intégrale des œuvres chorales (Sauh III & IV - TKRDG - 3 Canti populari - 3 Canti sacri - 3 Latin Prayers - Yliam). New London Chamber Choir, Percussive Rotterdam, conducted by James Wood (ref. 206812)


Cpo

  • Chamber Works For Flute And Piano (Cpo 999340-2) played by Carin Levine, flutes, Kristi Becker, piano, Peter Veale, oboe, Edith Salmen, percussion, and Giacinto Scelsi, piano
  • The Complete Works For Clarinet (Cpo 999266-2) played by the Ensemble Avance, conducted by Zsolt Nagy, with David Smeyers, clarinets, and Susanne Mohr, flute


Kairos

  • Yamaon; Anahit; I presagi; Tre Pezzi; Okanagon (Kairos 1203) the Klangforum Wien conducted by Hans Zender
  • Streichquartett Nr. 4; Elohim; Duo; Anagamin; Maknongan; Natura renovatur (Kairos 1216) the Klangforum Wien conducted by Hans Zender
  • Action Music, Suite No 8 "bot-ba" (Kairos 1231) played on piano by Bernhard Wambach


Mode

  • The Piano Works 1 (Mode Records 92) played by Louise Bessette
  • The Orchestral Works 1 (Mode Records 95) Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic & Choir conducted by Juan Pablo Izquierdo, with Pauline Vaillancourt, soprano, and Douglas Ahlstedt, tenor
  • Music For High Winds (Mode Records 102) played by Carol Robinson, clarinets, Clara Novakova, flute and piccolo, Cathy Milliken, oboe
  • The Piano Works 2 (Mode Records 143) played by Stephen Clarke
  • The Piano Works 3 (Mode Records 159) played by Aki Takahashi
  • The Orchestral Works 2 (Mode Records 176) Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • The Works For Double Bass CD (Mode Records 188) played by Robert Black


Other labels

  • 5 string quartets, String trio, Khoom. Arditti String Quartet; Michiko Hirayama, voice; et al. (recorded 1988; Salabert Actuels, ref. 2SCD 8904-5; re-released by Montaigne / Naïve, ref. MO 782156, 2002; 2 CDs)
  • Trilogia (Triphon, Dithome, Igghur) - Ko-Tha. Frances-Marie Uitti, cello (Fore 80, No.6 [LP]; Etcetera, KTC 1136 [CD])
  • Intégrale de la musique de chambre pour orchestre a cordes (Natura renovatur, Anagamin, Ohoi, Elohim). Orchestre Royal de Chambre de Wallonie, conducted by Jean-Paul Dessy (recorded May 1998; Forlane, ref. UCD16800, 2000)
  • Canti del Capricorno. Michiko Hirayama, voice; et al. (recorded 1969 & 1981/1982; Wergo, ref. WER 60127-50, 1988)
  • Complete Works For Flute And Clarinet (Col Legno 200350) played by the Ebony Duo
  • Trilogia (CTH 2480, together with Aşk Havasi by Frangis Ali-Sade) played by Jessica Kuhn on violoncello
  • Natura renovatur (ECM 1963) Münchener Kammerorchester conducted by Christoph Poppen, Frances-Marie Uitti on violoncello


Sources



References



External links






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