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Album Review

Domenico Guaccero “Da Cantare: Opere Vocali 1951-1983 (To Sing: Vocal Works 1951-1983)” [die Schachtel]

cujo   12/15/2005   A Library

Domenico Guaccero (1927-1984) was a major player in the Italian avant-garde scene who has most unfortunately fallen into obscurity. He rubbed elbows with just about everybody including Nono, Curran (who lived in Rome for a while), Rweszki, and Morricone, Cage and the Darmstadt crowd, and founding seemingly dozens of electronic/computer/tape music studios and performing ensembles (e.g., Musica Ex Machina). His compositions derive mostly from aleatory, electronic, spatial, and improvisational techniques, you will find nothing conventional about his scores. Care for an example? See the album’s front cover (printed with nice silver leaf on white cardboard) for an excerpt.

CD 1 contains the choral works, and CD 2 contains the works for soloists, and the singers sing outstandingly. Most of these performances are live recordings from 3 Roman new music festivals and from his 60th anniversary concert, all in the 1980s. Coughs and shuffling permeate the recording, but still, the audiences are super well-behaved: ‘I’m telling you, Europeans are so much more open to new music. Glossa, Tre Melodie, and Casa Dell’Armonia are recommended for beginners. This 2-CD set is one of 500 etchings from the Milan electro-acoustic enthusiasts Die Schachtel (‘the box?) – check out recent Schachtel KFJC adds from Grossi, Sacchi, Zuccheri, and Insieme Musica Diversa.

CD1:
Rot: Apparently the masterwork here, but probably because it’s the only Guaccero work to ever have been released (30 years ago on vinyl). The only track here with electronics. An entirely precomposed/recorded work, this a live recording of its 2nd ever performance, where they resurrected the tape (with electronics that Alvin Curran helped to record) and added singers to interpret the score. I think there’s also a theatrical/visual aspect to this piece that we can’t hear.
Kardia: A seemingly straightforward choral work for 8 mixed voices. While still unintelligible, there’s a lot more semblance of a text than in Casa Dell’armonia.
Casa Dell’armonia: 24 women singing an actual text (or so indicates the liner notes), but you could have fooled me. Moaning, wailing, whooping, sailing, shushing, solo tirades, in and out of unison, almost entirely vowel sounds.
Il Sole E l’Altre Stelle: A bass drum quietly beats out a slow heartbeat. A female soloist and female chorus sing a collage of Bibbia, Pinnochio, and the Divine Comedy.

CD2:
Cinque Canti Da Tasso: Five songs for soprano and piano. The singer leads, and the piano seems to answer. Most challenging writing for the soprano is on these tracks.
Un Hombre: Not quite vicious but certainly not a complacent thunderstorm for soprano and prepared piano. The meteorological imagery brought to mind might be the result of this CD’s most emotional interpretation of his pictographic scores. Now doesn’t that sound academic.
Tre Liriche Di Montale: An excellent example of how atonal, experimental songs (these 3 for soprano and piano) can sound very lyrical, almost post-Romantic. Perhaps it is not surprising that this an earlier (1951) work, before most of his late-50s Darmstadt education.
Glossa: After an extended prelude, a woman launches a scathing sarcastic whooping spoken-singing-guttural English text by Sonia Sanchez ‘praising? American virtues (the only intelligible track here, unless you speak avant-Italian or latin). A surprising track and perfect for those feeling disenfranchised by our government.
Tre Invenzioni: The densest orchestration presented here: soprano, piano, and horn. 3 short pieces, the pianist heads inside the piano for some of his interpretations.
Da Cantare: The audience favorite, solo baritone with an excellent voice sings two solo songs.
Tre Melodie: An intriguing, exciting combination of soprano and timpani. 3 leaping, rumbling pieces.

Website for the Guaccero archive for further information on the man: www.guaccero.it

-Cujo, December 2005

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