This ambitious and beautifully produced two-CD set includes nearly all of Iannis Xenakis' chamber music for strings, piano, and strings and piano combined. Chamber music constituted a small part of the composer's output, since large ensembles and large forms were vehicles more commensurate with the aesthetic of his monumental, granitic music. There are no small pieces here, though; in each of these works, ranging from solos to a quintet for piano and strings, Xenakis was able to express his uncompromising vision no less ferociously than in his orchestral works. While all of the pieces have an elemental character, many with a visceral punch, the actual sound of the music is surprisingly varied, and the individual works have distinctive and individual characters. In spite of the weightiness and rigor of the music, the tone is not necessarily heavy, and some pieces, like Evryali for piano and Dikhthas for violin and piano, have moments of what could almost be described as whimsicality.
Universal Music pays tribute to the composer with this keenly priced 4 CD set. Most of the recordings found here are making a comeback to the catalogue, some are first time onto CD. Ten years after his death, the innovativeness of his music has lost none of its force and clearly marks him out as an essential composer of our time. “this is an extraordinary collection of pieces; several of which are among the most ear-stretchingly dissonant, exciting and uncompromising you’ll ever hear…And however hard it is to pin down exactly why, Xenakis’s wildest outbursts always sound controlled, cunningly organised…None of this music is easy listening, but it’s impossible not to be impressed by such craggy, exhilarating physicality.”
Classical Records of the Year – The Sunday Times, 17 December 1989
A stringent and sustained electro-acoustical experience is to be had from Iannis Xenakis’s magnum opos Kraanerg (70 mins long) as recorded on Etcetera by the Alpha Centauri Ensemble and Roger Woodward…..
The Times, Saturday November 1, 1989
…The music has ‘active energy in abundance. … The performance is dazzling, and I come firmly into the ‘bowled over’ rather than ‘baffled’ category… A.W…..
Diapason-Harmonie, Decembre 1989, Les Nouvelles
Rating 8 TTTT
Une très belle interprétation, vigoureuse et sanguine, résultant de vingt-trois exécutions de la version ballet par la Sydney Dance Company et l’Alpha Centauri Ensemble sous la direction inspirée de Roger Woodward…… read more
Sydney Morning Herald, 17 January 1990, Roger Covell: Caution : 70 minutes of untamed music…
This is the first recording of Xenakis' music for keyboard instruments realised by computer - unplayable by human hands!(from the attached booklet)
"I like the organ — but I have a particular flair for string instruments." Anyone who has a slight acquaintance with Iannis Xenakis's music will suspect that his liking for string instruments does not derive from early childhood memories or some other sentimental origin. The technical characteristics and sonorities of string instruments are so much part of his soundworld that we may well wonder if it did not actually develop out of string sound in the first place.
- Michael Struck-Schloen (from the attached booklet)
As an architect and mathematician, Iannis Xenakis brings an unusual eye to bear on his compositional ear. He rejected twelve-tone composition decades ago, instead pushing the envelope further on determinate numbers and sounds and generating a broader palette of available sounds. Graphical notation has been one of Xenakis's chief means of expression, allowing him to script sharply sliding glissandi and what he calls non-octave scales. This 2-CD set collects three string quartets and the busy, aching Akea, Xenakis's quintet for piano and strings. The unsurpassed Arditti String Quartet plays the ensemble pieces, and then farms out constituent members to play the solo and duo pieces. Pianist Claude Helffer creates pointed havoc on his three solo appearances, offering spare tones and dense steam alike. When playing with the Ardittis, Helffer makes himself central to the hard punch and slightly mad—extremely unconventional drama.—Amazon.com
It's true that Xenakis' music has a completely unique, totally new expressiveness. It is essentially music that no longer concentrates so heavily on the individual aspect of the masses - in other words, it is truly 20th-century music. In contrast to many of his avant-garde colleagues who, according to Xenakis are still living in the 19th century, Xenakis is an authentic contemporary figure.from the CD booklet