|Xenakis' oeuvre is unique in modern music--it is music of great visceral power, energy and sheer sound. Music from another world. Music that grabs the listener, riveting his attention.
Conductor Charles Zachary Bornstein is a Xenakis specialist. Bornstein learned that of the 700 to 800 performances of Xenakis' music worldwide each year, only a handful were in America. He formed New York's ST-X Ensemble (named after Xenakis' series of ST- compositions from the 1960s) in 1994 to fill the void.
Mode Records also fills a void with the first release in a new series with Bornstein and the ST-X Ensemble of Xenakis' ensemble works.
This program includes ALL of Xenakis' works for ensemble and voice--a varied recital spanning many periods of Xenakis' compositional style. The revolutionary Eonta is like no music before or since: cascading notes like falling stars together with waves of sound from the brass. Akanthos is full of primeval mystery. Rebons an incredible crowd-pleaser for virtuoso solo percussion. N'Shima a ritual of chanting voices (singing Hebrew syllables) against a backdrop of roaring brass and solo cello. Finally, the most recent work of Xenakis to be recorded, Plekto, also receives its first recording.
Recorded in concert, capturing the virtuosity of the ensemble and its conductor, this recording transmits the tremendous raw energy and excitement of Xenakis's music performed live.
The model Xenakis utilised for the piece was that of light refracted through water, with the piano representing water and the brass portraying near blinding light, but this is no picture postcard representation. Splashy piano writing trickles everywhere with the power of 1000 simultaneous waterfalls. Underneath, muted brass enter imperceptibly until their reflection becomes a resonant reality; tidal waves of brass later overwhelm the piano as the two battle for supremacy. Another significant masterpiece is the Hebrew based N'Shima (1975) for two voices and instruments. The microtonal vocal writing is kept determinedly untamed for the niceties of the trained voice, and the clustery brass and amplified cello accompaniment equals their raw expressivity.
Then - rare in Xenakis - a joke, as a naked tonal fanfare in the ensemble appears without reason. Plektó (1993) is oddball again, featuring the pianist ricocheting clusters against a web of counterpoint from flute, clarinet, violin and cello. Xenakis usually locks counterpoint into his familiar sound masses, but here lines jut out provocatively. A mediating percussion part glues the whole raggedy enterprise together.
--- Philip Clark, The Wire, July, 2006