MRDe-music review: A Scelsi Centenary
A presentation of New Music Concerts
featuring Louise Bessette (piano)

Saturday, November 12, 2005 8 pm
The Music Gallery at St. George the Martyr, Toronto

I'll just do this one short and sweet ...

As I said to Louise Bessette after the show, it's great to hear tonight's repertoire played so well.

I really only discovered Bessette's playing last year (although I have her recording of Messaien's Vingt Regards sur l'enfant-Jesus in my collection, and have had for many years ... the recording just doesn't make as deep an impression as the live performance) when she performed the Ives Concord Sonata here in Toronto last year. I thought I knew the Ives work well, but she brought it to new life for my ears.

At this show, the primary focus was the works of Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988), an Italian composer who is emerging from a period of obscurity. I've come to know and enjoy his works, which have been getting much exposure in Toronto in this Scelsi Centennial year.

Two large-scale Scelsi piano works (Sonata No. 4 and Suite No. 9 "Ttai") were the core of the evening, and both played up what I find to be Scelsi's strengths ... a strong melodic focus, concise movements, and a very powerful sound world. There's a real feeling of humour in some of Scelsi's works; the Sonata No. 4's first movement struck me this way particularly. The Suite was particularly striking: the 9 movements were alternated between motoric, rhythmic material (in the odd numbered movements) and slow, static, meditative slower material (the even numbered movements).

This composer doesn't deserve the obscurity that he had, and I'm hoping to get to know his works better in the near future.

I should mention that there were other pieces on the show too. By Serge Arcuri (Fragments), Sean Pepperall (Cosmographie), and Silvio Palmieri (Prelude VIII), all performed vividly, and all making interesting and different use of the sonic possibilities of the piano.

Based on the two performances of hers I've heard (and a retrospective thought back to the Messaien CD recording), I can say that if you wish to hear a piece in a way that brings it to life and reveals all its details, catch Louise Bessette playing it.

Did I manage nice this time?