Shira Legmann/ Giacinto Scelsi - Suite No.9/ Quattro Illustrazioni/ Un Adieu [Elsewhere - 2020]Here we have a fourteen track piano-based release that focuses in on moodily gloomy-to-boundedly angular modern classical/ minimalist composition. This album features three piano works by Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi: Suite No.9 "Ttai" (1953), Quattro illustrazioni (1953), and Un Adieu (1978/1988), with each been played with great clarity and emotion by Israeli concert pianist Shira Legmann. The release appears on US label Elsewhere- available as either a CD, or high quality digital download- I’m reviewing the CD version of the album.
The CD is presented in a fittingly moody black & white gatefold- which takes in on its front cover a picture of dirty & broken piano keys, with inside the gatefold full track listings, recording details etc.
Shira Legmann (born 1981 in Aachen, Germany) is an Israel-based concert pianist who has a wide repertoire – with her playing moving from Baroque, onto contemporary and experimental music. She is also an interdisciplinary artist who creates new compositions and soundtracks based on graphic novels, animation, and video art. Going by her discog listings she only has two releases to her name- and these start in 2019, though clearly from her wonderful rich & nuanced playing she has been a pianist for many years.
The three works here are composed by Giacinto Scelsi(1905-1988)- an Italian composer, who also wrote surreal French poetry. He’s known for composing music based around only one pitch, then altered it either by microtonal oscillations, harmonic allusions, or changes in timbre and dynamics. In his lifetime he collaborated with the likes of John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Earle Brown- with his work been influence on the likes of Ennio Morricone, Tristan Murail and Solange Ancona. He composed work for piano, wind & string- both orchestral & chamber based. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t aware of his work before this CD- but I must say I was very impressed with his distinctive sound, which is both atmospherically moody & darting in its attack. And I’d say if you enjoy 20th-century modern classic composition- you’ll be equally taken by this release.
The CD’s first nine tracks take in 1953’s Suite no 9 Ttai- each of the tracks run between two and five minutes, and they are built around a series of pace & keyboard shifting compositions. These nicely move between broodingly bounding, moodily cascading, dartingly felt and shiftily angular- they are unpredictable & at the same time perfectly built-in their clever & richly nuanced unfold. And even after many plays, I’m still surprised by the truly inspired shifts in Scelsi composing.
Tracks ten to thirteen are taken up by Quattro Illustrazion which was also composed in 1953- each of the four tracks run around the three-minute mark. The feel here is a lot more angular & darkly bullish/ unsettling in its flow- as the tracks blend together tight key stabs, lulling–yet-brooding dwells, and fraught pattern runs. Again very unpredictable-yet-highly focused composition.
Lastly, we have track fourteen which is Un Adeieu which was dates from 1978/ 1988- this runs just shy of the six & a half minute mark. The track moves between mournful wonders, sudden bounding bass flows, and felt-if-angular darts. A wonderful uneasy & unpredictable finish to this release.
Legmann's playing is masterful in both it’s shifting passion, rich clarity, and balanced precision. These are difficult/ complex compositions for the listener's ear and mind to fully comprehend- let alone for the person playing them
All told this is a rather marvellous release- with distinctive & daring compositions, played wonderfully with a nicely presented mini gatefold. If you enjoy any piano-based sound- be it modern classical music, minimalism, or modern composition- you’ll be needing to pick this up. And I’ll be most certainly looking at tracking down more of Giacinto Scelsi work; as well more of Ms Legmann’s playing.Roger Batty