November 2005

A Scelsi Centenary – Louise Bessette, solo piano
Presented by New Music Concerts in association with the Music Gallery
November 12, 2005The Music GalleryToronto
Thunder in the left hand/icy shards in the right
by David Fujino
In an evening of rich ringing sonorities, broad acoustical space, and hovering curtains of overtones, pianist Louise Bessette was totally present to let all the music come through her.

Whether she was playing Scelsi's featured compositions — or the sympathetically vibrating music of the Montréal composers Sean Pepperall, Silvio Palmieri and Serge Arcuri — pianist Bessette played without ego, and in her very surrender to all of the music, she immediately transported us to the next level, outer space (and notions of infinity), where much of the evening's music spoke from.

The first composition, Cosmography, by Sean Pepperall, ironically served as an example of musical clarity for some of the Scelsi feature compositions which followed in the programme.

Cosmography's minimalist (2-note) introduction shimmered into a state of luminescence, then fragmented bursts went crystalline and chilly, and then silent. A re-sounded 2-note introduction said we were back at the start, and what followed in terms of acutely tuned variations in the number of notes, and pitch, intervals and textures, was wholistically satisfying because of the composition's integrated clear moving form and its clear (inner) developing musical thoughts about the cosmos.

Louise Bessette

However, in comparison, Giacinto Scelsi's music occasionally seemed developmental and searching for form, as in "Sonata No. 4 (1941)", with its dramatically tolling bass note of doom throughout — here the sonata achieves a clear structure, and while its third and last section (III ‘Con impeto estremo, violento’) was energetic and churning, it wasn't ‘violento’ — instead it had a circular locomotion, heralding things to come, and seemed out of balance with much of the sonata's often repeated modernist, sparse, still, spaced out sound of an extreme bass and an extreme treble note, struck at the same time.

The Sound: thunder in the left hand/icy shards in the right ...

I came to understand this sound as a stylistic and structuralizing device used by all the evening's composers — Scelsi, Pepperall, Palmieri’s Prelude VIII: Il giorno della mia morte, 1998, and Arcuri’s Fragments, 1997, and I further heard the composers' shared delight in plasticity and the prismatic scattering of tones in space.

What a rare opportunity this was to hear the spiritual music of the famously unknown 20th century Italian composer, Giacinto Scelsi — and what a distinct pleasure it was to sit amidst the atmospheres pulled out of all the compositions by the sensitive Member of the Order of Canada, pianist Louis Bessette.

The Music Gallery was a charmed space during this evening's NMC concert, animated by intense sonic journeying, outward and inward, that inevitably brought us back to earth, eyes closed, all of us listening.


Cosmographie (1996) by Sean Pepperall
Sonata No. 4 (1941) by Giacinto Scelsi
Prelude VIII: Il giorno della mia morte (1998) by Silvio Palmieri
Fragments (1997) by Serge Arcuri
Suite No.9 "Ttai" (1953) by Giacinto Scelsi
Un adieu (1978) by Giacinto Scelsi

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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