Scelsi: Chemin du coeur

Program Note

Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988)
Chemin du coeur (The Heart’s Path) (1929)

Giacinto Scelsi was born into an old family of Italian aristocracy in La Spezia. His personal eccentricity and the unusual route of his rise to prominence have combined to produce wildly differing impressions of Scelsi as a person and as a composer. His aristocratic position and financial means lent a dilettantish quality to his early background, in spite of a conspicuous study of the major musical trends of the time. In 1935-36, after he had already written several large-scale works, Scelsi studied the Viennese style with Walter Klein, a student of Schoenberg, and went on to declare an allegiance to Berg's version of tonal dodecaphony. He next studied Scriabin's harmonic vocabulary with Egon Koehler in Geneva, and the resulting combination of mystical and chordal thinking marks the remainder of his career. In the late 1940s, he suffered a mental breakdown, a crisis from which he recovered very slowly. He resisted any attempt to analyze his music, refused to be photographed, and generally removed himself from public view.

Scelsi's partially cataloged musical output consists of more than one hundred works, including six for orchestra, five string quartets, several works for larger chamber ensembles, and a substantial body of solo and duo pieces. Chemin du coeur was his first composition.

 —Todd M. McComb