Scelsi: Works List

The following list of compositions of Giacinto Scelsi (1905-1988) was taken originally from a Musike-Konzepte article by Rainer Rehn, with (at this point) extensive corrections and additions by me. It might easily be incomplete, or inaccurate in places where I have no direct experience. Obviously, certain pieces in numerical sequences are absent (e.g. Suite No. 1); whether they are destroyed (which some early pieces certainly were) or simply not listed is unknown. The listing was subsequently enhanced by consulting the revised New Grove article, which named six previously unlisted pieces, as well as the Scelsi Foundation. Since then, dating information (when in need of revision) is generally taken from recording discussions (as these are the most recent).

The entire scheme could probably use a reappraisal at this point, especially in terms of linking recordings to works and the like. I have made relatively few efforts to update this list for the web; it was a pre-web text listing.

A. First Period (1929-1950)

These are the more "conventional" works before Scelsi went through his crisis and radically altered his compositional stance.

B. Second Period (1952-1959)

These are the works immediately following on the crisis, most of which have a "searching" sort of quality to them, and a more improvisational feel featuring wide motion.

C. Third Period (1959-1969)

This is Scelsi's most characteristic music, expansive & elegant, following on the landmark exploration of single notes in the Quattro pezzi. Here is the real structural role for timbre with a more minimalist orientation in other areas.

D. Fourth Period (1970-1976/1988)

This is a time during which Scelsi's music became more severe and ascetic, so that many of these works are very short. They can also be more melodic in some sense, and represent something of a return to the improvisational style of the Second Period, but from within the new timbral perspective perfected technically (including notationally) in the Third Period.

Some late works (1980s) by Scelsi have generally not been cataloged, although they seem to appear in the personal repertoires of some musicians. In many cases they are direct improvisatory collaborations with performers who worked with Scelsi, or in other cases transcriptions. I have hesitated to list them, although they do need to be cataloged at some point.

Finally, note that some works may have been conceived in one period but notated in another, sometimes undergoing some changes.

I have translated sub-titles in quotes, and a few titles in brackets. A "*" indicates that the piece has not appeared on recording to my knowledge. As can be seen, almost all of Scelsi's later output has been recorded. (When this page began, that was not nearly true.) Exceptions now consist entirely of vocal works.

This notion of 4 "periods" is also original to me. I can imagine tweaking what goes in each, but roughly the four main decades of Scelsi's compositional career (the first being well over a decade) do have rather different technical-stylistic profiles.

Note further that this listing was copied verbatim by Wikipedia. However, the copy there is older (or was when I wrote this paragraph, while updating this page in 2020) — and the present page has been updated in the interim.

Back to Giacinto Scelsi page.

Todd M. McComb