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26/11/2022 - 26/11/2022

Xenakis, Extraordinary Life and Music
Pléïades by Iannis Xenakis, by the Portuguese Chamber Orchestra

The year of 2022 marks the centenary of the birth of Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001), the Greek polymath: composer, architect, engineer and visionary. Of his multiple and infinite interests - ranging from mathematics, astronomy, and computer science to the music of Bali, a musical tradition he visited (along with Tōru Takemitsu and other artists) in 1972 and which led to the creation of Pléïades (1978), one of the most beautiful and daring works by this giant of 20th century music.

Written for a percussion sextet, the work doubly evokes the warm blue star cluster of the Taurus constellation, as well as in Greek mythology, the sister-nymph daughters of the titan Atlas and Pleione, the daughter of the ocean. It is also inspired by the members of the group responsible for the work's premiere, the legendary Les Percussions de Strasbourg. The work is an odyssey of contrasts (from the simplicity of a lullaby to incessant explosions of colour and rhythm), divided into four movements: Claviers (marimba, vibraphone, xylophone), Peaux (aggregates of powerful drums of various scopes), Mélanges (all the instruments that make up the work) and Métaux, which explores a instrument created for this composition, six of them built specifically for this concert: the sixxen (six / xen: Xenakis), a giant metallophone inspired by the Indonesian gamelan, placing percussion at the centre of contemporary musical exploration with this major work of the 20th century.

Pre-concert talk with Mâkhi Xenakis and Pedro Carneiro

Passionate about mathematics, literature and music, Iannis Xenakis (1922–2001) studied at the Athens Polytechnic School while engaged in intense anti-fascist resistance activity during the World War II. He was wounded in the civil war following the end of the Nazi German occupation and lost the sight in one eye. Sentenced to death, he was forced to leave Greece. He arrived in France in 1947 and joined Le Corbusier's studio as an engineer. Mathematics inspired all his architectural and musical work. Xenakis thus transformed the 20th century with his creativity and genius. Pedro Carneiro and the creator's daughter, Mâkhi Xenakis, draw a portrait of him, leading us to the evening's central work: the percussive epic Pléïades.

Percussion Ensemble
Portuguese Chamber Orchestra
Musical Direction: Henrique Constância
Artistic direction and percussion: Pedro Carneiro
Artistic direction assistant and percussion: João Carlos Pacheco
Percussion: Agostinho Sequeira, João Braga Simões, Paulo Amendoeira, and Rafael Picamilho

The Portuguese Chamber Orchestra would like to thank João Pinharanda and the entire maat team. We would also like to thank the whole team behind the construction of the Sixxen for this production of Pléïades:
Concept and artistic director: Pedro Carneiro
Concept, coordination and construction: Rui Borges Maia
Acoustic consultancy: Vincent Debut
Structure construction: Paulo Gonçalves
Historical consultancy: Mâkhi Xenakis and Ronan Gil de Morais
IT consultancy: Carlos Caires and Michael Norris


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