VIERI TOSATTI (1920-1999): Deutsche Sonate, 7 preludi e fughe, 3 Studi da Concerto, GIACINTO SCELSI (1905-1988): Piano Sonata.
Catalogue Number: 12R039
Label: Carnegie Mellon University School of Music
Description: This is an important release, both for its intrinsic musical merits, which are considerable, and for the light it sheds (and does not shed) on the relationship between the enigmatic figure of Scelsi and the now almost unknown one of Tosatti. The eccentric, self-taught Scelsi's working methods were always unusual, even in his early period (from which this fine sonata, recently premiered and receiving its first recording here, comes). Increasingly impatient with the mechanical processes of writing down music, he tended to leave works in incompletely notated form, and this tendency became far more pronounced in his later compositional periods, those of his mystical, highly unorthodox works which did not readily admit of conventional notation in any case, and which Scelsi often improvised on primitive multi-track electronic instruments, producing tapes which he then turned over to assistants to realise into performable form. Principal among these collaborators - hired help effectively - was Vieri Tosatti, an accomplished composer with a modestly successful career and some originality of style - he was primarily known for his operas, which had been performed in major opera houses. The composers worked together for almost thirty years, apparently with the stipulation that only Scelsi's name be attached to the resulting compositions. The year after Scelsi's death, Tosatti published a notorious article debunking the Scelsi mythos, effectively claiming that the emperor had no clothes, Scelsi's tapes were so much haphazard doodling, and whatever musical value the resulting 'compositions' might have had was attributable solely to him. So the opportunity to compare the composers' works on a level playing field is valuable. Tosatti emerges as a thoroughly worthwhile composer, whose rediscovery, aside from the Scelsi connection, was demonstrably due. There is not a trace of the kind of wildly alternative approach to composition that marks the collaborative Scelsi works, but these are finely wrought, expressive pieces, rather conservative for the 1970s but well written for the instrument, structurally cogent and with a convincing musical argument. The taut, three-movement sonata reflects the composer's feelings for German culture from an Italian perspective, a characteristic he shared with Busoni, with whose music Tosatti's has some slight similarities. The first movement, emphatic and agitated, begins with a quotation from Beethoven. The second is in variation form, a set of woodland and meadow scenes, melodic and pastoral, while the finale is a ghostly night-ride. The seven Preludes and fugues are more straightforwardly tonal, sounding like personal reflections on musical memories - a specific mode, a theme from one of the composer's operas, a tribute to Bach (using the BACH motif). The Tre studi are earlier, extrovert wartime bravura studies by a young pianist-composer confident in his abilities. Scelsi's substantial (25-minute) sonata is less formally accomplished than Tosatti's, and reflects the composer's interest in the outer reaches of tonality explored by Berg or the late Scriabin. The first movement is free in form, with complex development of thematic material; the second is an imposing slow passacaglia, while the finale is a complicated, formally free fugue. The work abounds in virtuosic gesture - Scelsi was a considerable pianist - and among Scelsi's 'conventional' works it takes its place as a powerful, accomplished example of his imaginative and technical powers. Donna Amato (piano).