Southbank festival celebrates Varese’s New York years

Posted on: April 13, 2010

In Friday’s (4/9) Guardian, Gillian Moore writes about composer Edgard Varèse. “French-born Varèse was trained in Paris and Berlin at the start of the 20th century. His early music, touched by Debussy, Strauss and Busoni, was destroyed in a Berlin warehouse fire in 1918. So it was with tabula rasa that the immigrant Varèse hit the artistic and technological hothouse of interwar New York. … The wonderful and strange music that Varèse created between his arrival in New York and his death in 1965 can be fitted on to only two CDs, or performed in three short concerts—which is exactly what will happen at Southbank Centre next weekend. … Varèse had been dreaming of new sounds, of electronic music, a generation before it was technically possible.” In 1953 Varèse “received an anonymous gift of an Ampex tape recorder and was able to assemble the electronic sounds that he had dreamed of. The result was the bleakly expressive Déserts, for orchestra and tape and the space-age bleeps and demented electronic choirs of Poème Électronique, commissioned by Le Corbusier as a sound installation for the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.” Southbank Centre’s Varèse 360° includes April 16 and 18 performances by the National Youth Orchestra.

Posted April 13, 2010