The centenary of Iannis Xenakis, whose works reveal a unique fusion of music, maths and architecture, is celebrated around the world in 2022 with a particular focus on Athens and Paris, the twin cities of his life before and after the Second World War.
Athens and Paris lead the celebrations for Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) in his centenary year. Born in Romania, he was educated in Athens and in his early 20s was active in the student resistance movement during and after the war, leading to imprisonment and horrific shrapnel injuries. He fled to France in 1947 and settled in Paris where he spent the rest of his life. Applying his civil engineering training to architecture, Xenakis collaborated with Le Corbusier in the 1950s including the construction of the Philips Pavilion for the Brussels World Fair, and it was this period that saw his first compositions, inspired by studies with Messiaen.
The Xenakis works published by Boosey & Hawkes span the years 1953-69, a period containing many of the composer's formative and most celebrated scores, exploring the interface between music, stochastic processes and game theory. His stylistic parameters were defined in the two orchestral works Metastaseis and Pithoprakta, and were then applied to varied forces such as large ensemble (Achorripsis), solo piano (Herma), string quartet (ST/4), brass ensemble with piano (Eonta) and wind ensemble (Akrata). This series of pieces culminated in two large-scale stageworks, Oresteia and Kraanerg, both of which receive performances in the centenary year.
On 10 February, the Philharmonie de Paris and its Music Museum launch the Xenakis centenary with the opening of the Révolutions Xenakis exhibition, running through to 26 June. Organised jointly by Mâkhi Xenakis and Thierry Maniguet, the exhibition is conceived using the Xenakis family’s personal archives, inviting visitors into the heart of the artist's studio and his research and immerse them in a veritable visual, light and sound experience. The exhibition travels on to the Gulbenkian in Lisbon between November this year and March 2023.
A four-day Xenakis weekend of concerts is presented by the Philharmonie de Paris between 17 and 20 March with performers including the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Les Percussions de Strasbourg and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth. Radio France presents three concerts 6-8 May featuring orchestral and percussion music by Xenakis.
March also brings the first concerts in Athens, launching a series of musical and academic events in the city honouring Xenakis throughout 2022. On 2-4 March the Onassis Stegi and Panteion University join forces for a series of concerts.
The centenary month of May sees a series of four Xenakis programmes presented by Greek National Opera on its Alternative Stage in Athens, launched with two staged performances of Xenakis’s epic ballet score Kraanerg for ensemble and electronic tape on 7-8 May. The Black Page Orchestra is conducted by Ajtony Csaba with choreography by Lila Zafiropoulou danced by students of the Greek National Opera Professional Dance School and the Athens Conservatoire Dance School, reflecting the composer’s inspiration for the ballet in the transformative, yet destructive, power of the youth movements of the late 1960s.
Kraanerg also receives high profile concert performances in Amsterdam and Vienna by Klangforum Wien conducted by Sylvain Cambreling. The ZaterdagMatinee series presents the work on 2 April at the Royal Concertgebouw and three further performances take place 7-9 June in the ensemble’s home city. Ensemble unitedberlin presents both Xenakis stageworks, Kraanerg and Oresteia, in Berlin around the birthday at the Zionskirche on 28 May and Elisabeth-Kirche on 30 May.
Other events in May include a concert performance of Oresteia presented by the Auditorio in Zaragoza on 9 May, a Polytope XXI installation in Montreal presented by the Sixtrum percussion ensemble on 25 May, and a Music and Maths day of events combining forces of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and RNCMPRiSM on the birthday itself, 29 May.
Academic events in the centenary year include the International Xenakis Symposium running between 24 and 29 May in Athens and Nafplion, organised by the Kapodistria University of Athens, the University of Paris 8 and Les Amis de Xenakis. The Meta–Xenakis Symposium is a two-day (41-hour) marathon on 30 September and 1 October, starting in Rouen, moving on to New York City, Nagoya, Athens and ending in Mexico City.
If you would like to discuss Xenakis repertoire published by Boosey & Hawkes, please email compose[email protected]. Later works by Xenakis are published by Editions Salabert.
Events for the Xenakis 2022 celebrations are being co-ordinated by Les Amis de Iannis Xenakis. Please visit their website: www.iannis-xenakis.org.
> Further information on Work: Kraanerg
Photo: Ralph Fassey
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