Monday, 28 May 2018

Iannis Xenakis - Oresteïa (1987 recording, rel. 1990)

Xenakis gets operatic, for what seems to have been the only time in his career.  Oresteïa is actually more just a condensed cantata from the hour and a half of music composed for the city of Ypsilanti, Michigan in the mid 60s, on the opening of their Greek Theatre.  An LP of the slimmed-down version appeared on Erato in 1970, and doesn't seem to be available digitally.

In 1987, Xenakis added a new section, Kassandra, and the premiere of this version in Strasbourg in October of that year was recorded, and released in 1990.  If you're familiar with Iannis Xenakis, either from this blog (there's loads - see tag below) or otherwise, you'll know what to expect - staccato attacks, queasy glissandi, thunderous percussion (in great ritualistic rhythm here at times) and general chaos that lends itself well to Aeschylus' classic tragedy trilogy.

The score includes "whips, sirens and metal sheets" as well as wood and metal simantras, tuned blocks originating from the Eastern Orthodox Church.  There's even a direction for the audience to be given some of the metal ones - wonder how that worked out?  Vocally, the choir (an otherwise unrecorded one from Anjou) are suitably stentorian and portentous, and the visions of Cassandra are relayed in a spectacularly unhinged falsetto.  As I've said before, Xenakis at full tilt satisfies me in a way that few other avant-garde composers can, and Oresteïa is a fine example of something a bit different, even for him.



  1. Thanks for the Jarrett stuff. Perhaps apropos of nothing, but I thought this was an interesting list:

    1. ooooh can never resist a good discogs list.... especially one with stuff I haven't heard before, some good pointers there for investigation.

      (for anyone checking it out - Iancu Dumitrescu Ursa Mare/Aulodie Mioritica available split across two CDs - check my tags list for him, it's the two oldest posts)

  2. great choice!! ditto the artyomov discs, you're providing much of my aural pleasure at the moment - thank you, please keep going.

  3. Thanks again Alan !

  4. Thanks for all the recent music!