Who was Giacinto Scelsi? Once again Steffen Schleiermacher sets out in quest of clues and discovers completely new sides to this eccentric who turned his life story into a quiz show and thumbed his nose at compositional convention. Into the 1950s piano music occupied the focus in Scelsi’s oeuvre, and he deliberately withdrew from the avant-garde mainstream of his times.
Steffen Schleiermacher has selected two suites that could hardly be more different, though both have enigmatic titles referring to Far Eastern cultures. “Bot- Ba,” the subtitle of Suite No. 8, mentions Tibetan dances and religious rituals. It is more than doubtful that Scelsi ever visited Tibet. And yet his music produces an orgiastic ecstasy of sound with an incessant flow of energy interrupted in only a few passages by a standstill thus suggesting even more unfathomable depths.
Things are very different in Suite No. 9, “Ttai”; Scelsi wrote of this meditative music: “Excited persons would do well to abstain.” He expressly refers to the “Sound of the sacred OM” said to favor meditative and transcendental experiences. Relations between tonal centers play an important role in both suites. With their constantly new embellishments, chords, and tonal connections they also are easily detected by the public – a provocation taking aim at the serially oriented Darmstadt avant-garde.
Like no other, Steffen Schleiermacher is predestined for the interpretation of Scelsi’s music. Inspired by the study of Scelsi’s composition tapes only just recently made available, the master of contemporary piano music succeeds in creating a sound event that absolutely grips his audience – once again a fascinating listening experience!