Gérard Grisey – Les Chants de l’Amour (1984)

Le Chants de l’Amour for 12 voices and tape Gérard Grisey (1984). Duration: 35:23.

Les Chants de l’Amour, was completed in 1984. It was Grisey’s first large-scale vocal composition, and here the dramatisation of musical material that occurs throughout his instrumental work is very overt, within the context of a ‘music theatre’. With its chattering and countrapuntal vocals, for the most part unintelligible, this is a work that, if any, serves to belie the usual thought that spectral music simply corresponds to an over-technical extravagance of harmony. What is shown again here is that power ofdescription that was a major concern of Grisey, and which explodes in a piece that does not rely on any stereotypically ‘spectral’-orchestral tenets. [source]

I:      8:19
II:     7:24
III:   5:06
IV:  10:08
V:     4:24

Performed by Schola Heidelberg conducted by Walter Nussbaum.



Witold Lutosławski – Chain II: Dialogue for Violin and Orchestra (1984)

Krzysztof Bakowski, violin
Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra (Katowice)
Antoni Wit, conductor

I. Ad libitum
II. A battuta
III. Ad libitum
IV. A battuta – Ad libitum – A battuta

After the crowning achievement of his Symphony No. 3, Witold Lutoslawski searched for new forms to explore. He had spent much of his career working to perfect the single-movement symphonic form, but by the mid-1980s, his attention had shifted toward chamber music and the solo voice. He had, in fact, composed his Partita for violin and piano in 1984, and in that piece had developed new means for sustaining melodic lines with sparse textures and harmonies that were more suitable for a chamber setting. The opportunity to write something for the phenomenal Anne-Sophie Mutter no doubt served as inspiration for Lutoslawski’s Chain 2, dialogue for violin and orchestra, composed just a year after the Partita. Apart from featuring the violin, however, there is little resemblance between the two pieces, a remarkable fact considering their chronological proximity.

Chain 2 takes its title from a technique Lutoslawski had developed earlier in his career, but which had preoccupied him in the 1980s. The notion of the “chain” derives from the overlapping of distinct materials. For example, a phrase launched by the violin may be picked up in midstream by woodwinds, while the violin then drops out. Then another instrument may enter playing something new, and so on. In this way, the musical flow is perpetual, and new elements can be continuously introduced. In essence, this chain technique is a form of counterpoint, but extends a considerable relational freedom, including the possibility for simultaneous tempi, an innovation Lutoslawski was happy to explore. However, this technique does not form the main focus of the whole piece. Instead, Lutoslawski created four distinct movements, the first and third being related, and the second and fourth also bearing a resemblance to each other. The chain technique is most prominent in the first and third movements, which are both performed as a structured ad libitum. In Lutoslawski’s music, this means that while the music is fully notated, the conductor does not keep time, but cues the entrances for the different players, who then proceed at their own pace outside of any metrical divisions. This allows the violin soloist, in particular, to perform freely, as if in a cadenza, able to give full expression without needing to be precisely synchronized with the orchestra. The opening movement is indeed rhapsodic in character, followed by a lively, scherzo-like second movement. The third is slow and deeply lyrical, while the finale is brilliant and quick, as one might expect.

While exploring new means of shaping his music, Lutoslawski also looked back tothe Baroque, to the concerto tradition shaped by Corelli, Vivaldi, and perhaps Mozart. The tone is certainly lighter than a Romantic concerto, and in Chain 2 this is underscored by the chamber orchestra. Indeed, compared to his intensely dramatic Cello Concerto from 1970, Chain 2 is a paragon of balance and refinement.


Ben Johnston – Suite for Microtonal Piano (1977)

Suite for Microtonal Piano (1978) is a suite for specifically microtonally tuned piano(s) by Ben Johnston written in 1977 (see also just intonation). According to Bob Gilmore the piece, “take[s] extended just intonation well beyond the point reached by Harry Partch.”

“The piano is tuned to a selection of overtones from the fifth octave of the harmonic spectrum of C. All octaves are tuned in the same scale….The lowest C (33 Hz.) can be used to tune the scale by ear. In succession, touch the nodes producing the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 11th, 13th, 17th, [and] 19th partials. Then G, D; D, A; E, B; [and] B-flat, F; are just (beatless) fifths.”


  1. Alarum
  2. Blues
  3. Etude
  4. Song
  5. Toccata

Alarum is a Shakespeare era stage direction indicating “a grand entrance” and an archaic word for a call to arms, so
“Alarum” is a fanfare.

“Blues” and “Song” are both slow movements. “Blues” uses as blue notes the minor seventh (C-B♭) and mediant (in D dorian exactly halfway between E and G). “Song” is in E phrygian.

“Etude” is a study in serial technique and six-against-five polyrhythms in which Johnston indicates “blur with pedal”. This, “clues us in that the linear intricacies are only part of the story here: the amazing swirl of overtones resulting from an atonal application of this tuning are of equal importance.”

“Toccata” features diatonic outer sections and a spikier chromatic middle section.
The piece has been recorded and released on:

Microtonal Piano by Ben Johnston (1997). Phillip Bush, piano. Koch International Classics 3-7369-2.


György Ligeti – San Francisco Polyphony (1973-74)

Written for a normal symphony orchestra complement with an expanded triple woodwind section (including piccolos, alto flute, oboe d’amore, English horn, E flat clarinet, bass clarinet, and double-bassoon), this work was commissioned by San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

The piece opens with a dense texture made up of many individual melodic lines. In contrast to the Ligeti‘s early pieces, which used the shimmering moving clusters of what Ligeti calls “micropolyphony,” this composition uses much wider spacing and aims for “drier, sharper, and more graphic … melodic lines” that are more “translucent.” The piece is characterized by the subtle technique of timbre modulation achieved through the constant reorchestration of dynamic material.

At the beginning, certain melodies stand out from a group becuase they are played by several instruments in unison. The number of voices is very gradually reduced, producing an unusual ascending-pitch illusion which leaves only the higher woodwinds playing.

The winds continue to float, cycling in the air until interrupted by a wide-ranging, very quiet dissonant string chord. Out of that sustained mass, melodies again begin to emerge, slowly at first and then in an onrushing cacophony of strings (here the winds hold a sustained tone). The rushing tempo is gradually slowed down to a cycling pattern, which is taken up by the winds as the strings return to a sustained chord. Heroic and passionate melodic gestures arise first in the unison horns and then in the strings, as the other instruments re-create the dense atmospheric bed heard at the beginning.

All the players then begin different fixed cycling patterns. Once again the number of instruments playing is very gradually reduced, this time creating an illusion of depth change. A very mysterious timbre is left with very high strings, very low strings, and a high brittle piano trill. A shockingly loud bass drum shot occurs as the strings continue to hold. The percussion blast initates a high woodwind cluster (reminding one of Ligeti’s early orchestral work, Atmospheres). A second percussive shock comes from a gong which increases the intensity of the massed winds.
Underscored by low string drones, the winds begin trills like the calls of extraterrestial birds. These trills are gradually modified into quickly running patterns for a solo violin, which are spread to the piano and xylophone, then to winds and back to the string section — a wonderful instance of the very subtle shifting of timbres which characterizes much of this work. A slowly unfolding horn melody appears within these patterns, the melody being transferred to various winds and brass. This whirlwind continues unabated (as if all the melodies in the world have become one giant wave pattern), changing its orchestration, ebbing slightly at points, and then after approximately three minutes intensifying toward a loud and sudden conclusion.

Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Jonathan Nott.


Igor Stravinsky – Three Japanese Lyrics (1913)

Stravinsky’s Three Japanese Lyrics (1912-1913) were composed just as the taste for all things Oriental, from fine arts to fashion, was reaching its apex throughout Europe. Nowhere was this fad more rampant than in Paris, where the composer lived and, in 1912, had come upon an anthology of Japanese poetry translated into Russian, providing him with the texts for a group of three songs. These terse and somewhat mournful songs — “Akahito,” “Mazatsumi,” and “Tsaraiuki” — represent the composer’s most overt adoption of Far Eastern subject matter. Like many of Stravinsky’s works which draw upon elements from “exotic” sources, the songs reveal a degree of detachment, objectivity and stylization.
The Three Japanese Lyrics were composed some 15 to 18 months after Le sacre du printemps (1911-1913) was completed; as in that seminal ballet, the songs’ melodic material is based upon the repetition of numerous small cells. “Akahito” features a six-note ostinato comprised of slow, ornamented eighth notes that run throughout the song, while “Tsamaiuki” contains tiny refrain figures that are likewise repeated in an ostinato pattern. The Lyrics suggest a similarity to Le sacre du printemps in terms of subject matter as well. Both illustrate the dawning of spring, but while Le sacre du printemps expresses the death of winter through violence and elemental force, the Lyrics draw attention elsewhere. Here the emphasis is more upon the visual, decorative aspects of the season, symbolized by the color white — patterns of white flowers set against fresh snowfall.
Texturally, the Lyrics reveal another significant influence: Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (1912). Stravinsky attended a performance of the revolutionary melodrama in Berlin in December 1912, and Schoenberg’s band of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and piano was a likely inspiration for the instrumentation of the Lyrics (two flutes, two clarinets, and piano quintet). Moreover, the Lyrics, despite their clearly tonal language, employ harsh sonorities and free chromaticism to a greater extent than in Stravinsky’s previous works.
Following their first performance in 1914, many listeners were taken by the Lyrics’ metrical freedom and ambiguity. Indeed, rather than relying upon stereotyped orientalist clichés like pentatonic scales and garish ornamentation, Stravinsky emulates Japanese speech patterns with a remarkable degree of authenticity.

I. Akahito
II. Mazatsumi
III. Tsaraiuki

Evelyn Lear, soprano; Columbia Symphony, cond. Robert Craft. Art by Tensho Shubun.

Download sheet music as PDF:


Giya Kancheli – Morning Prayers (1990)

Giya Kancheli (Georgian: born 10 August 1935 in Tbilisi) is a Georgian composer resident in Belgium.

Since 1991, Kancheli has lived in Western Europe: first in Berlin, and since 1995 in Antwerp, where he is composer-in-residence for the Royal Flemish Philharmonic. [source]

Morning Prayers,
for chamber orchestra and tape,
Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Dennis Russel Davies – Conductor,
Vasiko Tevdorashvili – Voice,
Natalia Pschenitschnikova – Alto Flute.


Arseny Avraamov – Symphony Of Factory Sirens (1922)

Arseny Avraamov – Symphony Of Factory Sirens (Public Event, Baku 1922)

Arseny Mikhailovich Avraamov (born Krasnokutsky, 1886, died Moscow, 1944) was an avant-garde Russian composer and theorist. He studied at the music school of the Moscow Philharmonic Society, with private composition lessons from Sergey Taneyev. He refused to fight in World War I, and fled the country to work, among other things, as a circus artist. Returning in 1917, he went on to compose his famous “Simfoniya gudkov” and was a pioneer in Russian sound on film techniques. Among his other achievements were the invention of graphic-sonic art, produced by drawing directly onto magnetic tape, and an “Ultrachromatic” 48-tone microtonal system, presented in his thesis, “The Universal System of Tones,” in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart in 1927. His microtonal system predated the creation of the Petrograd Society for Quarter-Tone Music in 1923, by Georgii Rimskii-Korsakov.

Today, his most famous work is Simfoniya gudkov (Гудковая симфония, “Symphony of factory sirens”). This piece involved navy ship sirens and whistles, bus and car horns, factory sirens, cannons, the foghorns of the entire Soviet flotilla in the Caspian Sea, artillery guns, machine guns, hydro-airplanes, a specially designed “whistle main,” and renderings of Internationale and Marseillaise by a mass band and choir. The piece was conducted by a team of conductors using flags and pistols. It was performed in the city of Baku in 1922, celebrating the fifth anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution, and less successfully in Moscow, a year later. [source]












“By knowing the way to record the most complex sound textures by means of a phonograph, after analysis of the curve structure of the sound groove, directing the needle of the resonating membrane, one can create synthetically any, even most fantastic sound by making a groove with a proper structure of shape and depth”.

From “Upcoming Science of Music and the New Era in the History of Music” by Avraamov, published in 1916.















Arsenij Avraamov conducting “Symphony of the Factory Sirens” using two flaming torches (c.1923)

Franz Schubert – Ave Maria (1825)

“Ellens dritter Gesang” (Ellens Gesang III, D. 839, Op. 52, No. 6, 1825), in English: “Ellen’s Third Song”, was composed by Franz Schubert in 1825 as part of his Opus 52, a setting of seven songs from Walter Scott´s popular epic poem The Lady of the Lake, loosely translated into German.

It has become one of Schubert’s most popular works, recorded by a wide variety and large number of singers, under the title of Ave Maria, in arrangements with various lyrics which commonly differ from the original context of the poem. It was arranges in three versions for piano by Franz Liszt. [source]

Maria Callas – Vocal / Unknown – Piano













[Dedicated my father, who died in Tanzania 07.04.1995. Rest in peace]