giacinto scelsi

Tre Canti Popolari


CD jewel case


First publication in 1992.

Scelsi in sound.

The vocal music of the late Italian composer Giancinto Scelsi is even more obtuse, more challenging, and more profound than his many instrumental works -- some of which appear in this program. This series of pieces, the Tre Canti Popolari, is the scandalous companion for the Tre Canti Sacri. The Canti couple the parts in two groups -- bass and alto on the one hand, tenor and soprano on the other. These were recorded a minor third lower than the originals, which proved nearly impossible for (these) four voices. As in much of his other vocal work, Scelsi pursues an elusive sonority by employing invented pronunciation and syllabication for his singers. Likewise, Wo Ma, the four songs included here for bass voice, are presented nakedly and in their full tonal strangeness as the singer goes after the "K" sound over and over to achieve a mantra drone. In the songs for female voices, Saub -- Liturgia for Female Voices No. 1, he exploits the use of the diaphragm itself in dilating and contracting certain intervals of a third, or in relating a squeezed first major or second minor. He also overlaps the voices ritualistically, carrying them across the threshold of one another in an arid yet sensual and profane way. The Duo for Violin and Cello is typical in that it centers its harmonic inventions on drones and the stripping of notes back to their very essences. There are no angular placements in this piece, just the unfolding of tones (G-A) as they give way to a wider body of sound and disappear. Finally, there is Aitsi for solo piano, played by Jean Luc Fafchamps (who did a couple of volumes of Morton Feldman's piano works). A little over six minutes in length, Scelsci's tonal palette comes into full view here as one note relates to a chordal system of opposites and resolves in contradiction, not counterpoint. There are a startling number of expressive dynamics in this work, all of them folding out the tonal boundaries just a bit more and centering them on the tension created by their expression. This is a decent introduction to the work of Scelsi across the board, and the sound is stellar. Fafchamps' notes are quite wonderful, and the presentation is handsome. There are better editions of certain kinds of works, but this is a concise, reverential, and beautifully performed sampling.

Thom Jurek, All Music Guide

Performed by



01 Tre Canti Popolari (1958) 3:22
02 Tre Canti Popolari 3:38
03 Tre Canti Popolari 4:32
04 Duo for Violin and Cello (1965) 4:16
05 Duo for Violin and Cello 4:57
06 Wo Ma (1960) #1 3:02
07 Wo Ma, songs for bass voice #2 4:06
08 Sa Uh, liturgia for two female voices #1 (1973) 5:50
09 Sa Uh, liturgia for two female voices #2 5:43
10 Aïtsi, for piano (1974) 6'21