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Scelsi Edition Volume 9: The Works for Viola
Vincent Royer (viola & voice)
Volume 9 of Mode’s Scelsi Edition is devoted to the first complete recording of Giacinto Scelsi’s works for viola solo and duo.
Manto was a prophet in ancient Greece. Scelsi translated her oracle maxims into cryptic phonemes which the viola player has to sing simultaneously in the third movement. In Manto, the sound of the viola is expanded and explored via experimental playing techniques. This is the first recording of the third movement with male voice, sung by Vincent Royer.
In Xnoybis, Scelsi’s exploration “into the inside of the sound” is taken to its extreme. A central tone, variously coloured and surrounded, moves in microtonal steps — no melody in the traditional sense, but a sole wandering sound. Again this is the first recording of the viola version in a transcription by Vincent Royer.
Elegia per Ty for viola and violoncello is Scelsi’s tender rememberance of his former wife Dorothy (nicknamed 'Ty'). It is among his most important chamber works.
Coelocanth (1955) and the Three Studies (1956) belong to Scelsi’s earlier style of composing. Concise motivic gestures are developed by improvisation. These expressive, virtuoso pieces are overwhelming in their ecstatic ferocity. First recording of the Three Studies.
Violist Vincent Royer is one of the most outstanding performers of contemporary music today. Born in France but now living in Cologne, Germany, he is among a handful of musicians who have truly mastered the works of the Spectral composers, such as Gerard Grisey. In his hands, these challenging and complex works give way to new forms of musical expression that are mysterious, powerful and filled with beautiful colours. A key to his deep understanding of new music is his close collaboration with living composers, like Horatiu Radulescu and Tristan Murail, two important composers with whom Royer has enjoyed close working relationships.
“The demands placed on the soloist [in Three Studies] are immense, often requiring several different playing techniques to be used simultaneously, but Vincent Royer's performances are immaculate.” The Guardian, 1st September 2011 ***
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Ligeti: Sonata for viola
Geneviève Strosser (viola)
This recording allows French violist Geneviève Strosser to fully display her talents in a programme of singular works that she has nurtured for several years and has particularly appropriated to her qualities as an artist: warm sonorities, heightened sensitivity, great expressiveness… Many of the pieces on this disc, pieces on which she worked with the composers themselves, are world premiere recordings.
“Strosser's fingers are kept crazy busy, but each note matters” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2011
“as Geneviève Strosser shows, [the Ligeti] is a very considerable addition to the solo-viola repertory...there's Lachenmann's Toccatina, too, a study originally written for violin, and one of Giacinto Scelsi's explorations of microtonal tunings in Manto, which requires the violist to sing as well as play in the final movement. Like every challenge, Strosser takes it totally in her stride.” The Guardian, 21st July 2011 ****
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Thomas Zehetmair & Ruth Killius: Manto and Madrigals
In their first recording as a duo, violinist Thomas Zehetmair and violist Ruth Killius take the listener on a stunning tour of modern music, playing works by Bartók, Holliger, Scelsi, Martinů, Skalkottas, Rainer Killius, Johannes Nied and Peter Maxwell Davies. “The instruments dazzle, dance and declaim, play games with one another,” remarks Paul Griffiths in the liner notes.
The husband and wife team who comprise half of the multi-award winning Zehetmair Quartet have been playing this material as part of their recital work for several years already, with great success. These pieces formed the core of their performance at ECM’s 40th anniversary festival in Mannheim – a concert singled out by critics as a highlight of the event – and they perform music from Manto and Madrigal in London in early April. On this recording, the relationships between the pieces and between the instruments are explored in compositions that range from Scelsi’s dissonant and microtonal journey toward the mystic core of music making, with Killius as singer as well as viola soloist to duo pieces that incorporate elements, archaic or playful, from regional folk music. There is very early Bartók here, and music of Schoenberg’s sole Greek pupil Skalkottas. There are three sketches by Heinz Holliger, written especially for Zehetmair and Killius, playful madrigals by Martinů, and an encore provided by the performers’ friend Johannes Nied.
Thomas Zehetmair, virtuoso violinist, conductor, and musical director of the Northen Sinfonia, has recorded Holliger’s Violin Concerto for ECM and his solo discs of Ysaÿe and Paginini won great critical acclaim. He and Ruth Killius co-founded the Zehetmair Quartet in 1994. Their Schumann Quartets album was Gramophone’s Record of the Year in 2003 and the recent disc of Hindemith and Bartók was awarded the Diapason d'Or de l'Année.
“Zehetmair is the intellectual's violinist, with a hair-trigger precision of sound and rhythm, and an eager interest in the allusive and tough-minded parts of contemporary music. His wife, the violist Ruth Killius, is clearly made of the same metal. On this CD they come together for a series of violin-viola duets, unearthing many pieces which will be new to most listeners.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2011 ****
“[Holliger] wrote these "sketches" for this husband-and-wife partnership and celebrates that distinctive quality Zehetmair's playing has of dancing round the head of a volcano; so do Rainer Killius's Icelandic song to a bottle and a rebarbative sort of anti-encore by Johannes Nied, forming the bookends of this entirely original recital, which demands and repays more attention each time I return to it.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2011
“the main reason for investigating this release is the eclectic programme on this nicely produced ECM disc. It’s the sound of the two instruments together, the throatier viola sonorities complementing Zehetmair’s violin, and the way that these two players transform the thornier works in their recital into vibrant, living music.” Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk, 7th May 2011
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