Tag Archives: Varese

Percussion Play: Ionisation

Varèse’s Ionisation.

Pierre Boulez conducting the Ensemble InterContemporain.

Playing around with different kinds of pitch (fixed, variable or indefinite) and rhythm, Ionisation was the first piece written for percussion ensemble alone. Nicholas Slonimsky, who conducted the premiere in 1933, talks about the composer in an archived recorded interview here from 1973. He describes Varèse as ”a huge, French desert.”

It definitely gets funky at around the 2-minute mark.

Varese for eight hands

WXQR, New York’s classical radio station, is currently streaming a concert performance of Varèse’s remarkable Amériques  for eight hands on two pianos.

All keyed up

Originally scored for large orchestra, including an eleven-player percussion section which uses sirens, it’s a vibrant and often alarming tone-poem depcting the city of New York itself.

Hearing it in Varèse’s own two-piano transcription, which was not discovered until recently, offers a remarkable perspective on an already notorious work.

Hear it for yourself.