Amériques (1921) was the first work composed
in the USA by Edgar Varèse. Blazingly original, it draws unashamedly
upon Stravinsky's Sacre but is even more advanced in dissonance,
with a huge percussion section and the large orchestra including 29
brass in the first version. Arcana (1927) is a music of sound,
which determines structure through repetition and contrasts of rhythm
and timbre, developing without any pre-imposed plan. Ionisation
(1931) is for percussion (13 players) alone, innovative and unprecedented
at the time. Deserts ((1954) incorporated optional parts on tape,
but Boulez here (and also in his earlier recording) omits these sections.
I support that decision; the tape recordings can sound dated, that medium
having moved on so far in half a century, but the orchestral score works
well, with its cumulative power evolving over 17 mins in a way which
is totally compelling.
If you don't have Varèse in your collection,
this is an excellent CD with which to begin. Boulez and the Chicago
players give it everything and the mid-1990s recordings have clarity
and sonic brilliance. But give your ears a break and don't play the
CD straight through.
Peter Grahame Woolf
See also review by Marc
There is another
recent Varese collection on Naxos