Xenakis: Pléïades, Rebonds - Kuniko
Linn Records CKD 495
Classical - Instrumental
Xenakis: Pléïades; Rebonds
Full of challenges, from the pioneering mathematical influences, to unusual notation and virtuosic performance requirements, many classify Xenakis' compositions as unplayable, but KUNIKO's unrivalled prowess sees her perfectly realise the composer's vision. Pléïades explores a rich variety of percussive sounds and textures; marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, xylo-marimba and drums create a sound world of rhythmic complexity and vibrant colours. Uniquely, Pléïades also requires a SIXXEN, an instrument designed by Xenakis and customised by KUNIKO, who hand-selected 120 metal bars to craft the perfect sound.
Since becoming a percussion soloist, Rebonds is a piece that KUNIKO has been playing and performing throughout her entire career. After hearing this performance of Xenakis' popular piece, renowned percussionist Sylvio Gualda congratulated KUNIKO on her ‘marvellous' interpretation.
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Review by Graham Williams - April 21, 2015
For her third release on the Linn label, entitled Xenakis IX, the virtuoso percussionist KUNIKO turns to two of the most inventive and challenging works of the Greek-French avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001).
'Pléïades' was composed in 1978 and premiered by the six members of Les Percussions de Strabourg. It has four movements of roughly equal length and lasts, in KUNIKO's performance, 45 minutes. The titles of each of the movements – Mélanges (Mixtures), Métaux (Metals), Claviers (Keyboard) and Peaux (Skins) – indicate the type of instruments used and hence the differing tonal colours produced. The work also uses an instrument named the SIXXEN made up of metal bars with irregularly distributed pitches. KUNIKO herself selected 120 steel square tubes to produce the sonorities she wanted to achieve from six of these instruments in 'Métaux'.
Xenakis suggested two possible orders for performance with 'Mélanges' placed either first or last. KUNIKO has chosen the former, that allows the listener to experience the full kaleidoscopic percussion panoply before the instrumental groups separate for the subsequent movements.
Her thrilling performance of this remarkable piece is astonishingly confident and absolutely hypnotic.
'Rebonds', composed between 1987 and 1989, was written for the respected percussionist Sylvio Gualda whose complimentary note to KUNIKO is reproduced in the liner notes with this SACD. The work is in two parts simply labelled A and B that can be performed in any order. Part A uses only skinned instruments – bongos, tom-toms and bass drums – while Part B adds a set of 5 wood blocks and a tumba to the instrumental line-up. KUNIKO makes light of the mathematical and rhythmic complexities of Xenakis's compositional technique in her authoratative performance of this work.
The recordings (24-bit / 192kHz) were made in the fine acoustic of Lake Sagami Hall, Kanagawa, Japan at dates between December 2013 and October 2014 by engineers Kazuya Nagae and Yuji Sagae and the sound quality is superb whether one is playing the disc on a stereo or multi-channel set-up. The latter, however, makes maximum use of the surround speakers for the various instrumental groups thus adding to the excitement of the whole listening experience.
Excellent notes by KUNIKO complete this most recommendable issue.
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