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Berio: Sinfonia, Calmo, Quattro versioni originali della

Berio: Sinfonia, Calmo, Quattro versioni originali della

Ondine  ODE 1227-5

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Vocal


Berio: Sinfonia for eight solo voices and orchestra (1968/9); Calmo - in memoriam Bruno Maderna for mezzo-soprano and 22 instruments (1974); Quattro versioni originali della "Ritirata notturna di Madrid", for orchestra (1975) superimposed and transcribed from the Ritirata by Boccherini

Virpi Räisänen, mezzo-soprano (Calmo)
Mirjam Solomon & Annika Fuhrmann, sopranos
Jutta Seppinen & Pasi Hyökki, altos
Simo Mäkinen & Paavo Hyökki, tenors
Taavi Oramo & Sampo Haapaniemi, basses
Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra
Hannu Lintu


Ondine continues its exciting releases focusing on 20th century masterpieces together with conductor Hannu Lintu and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra. After successful Ligeti (ODE 1213-2; Gramophone Editor's Choice) and Messiaen (ODE 1251-5) recordings a new album is released which is dedicated to orchestral works by the pioneer of Italian modernism, Luciano Berio (1925-2003).

A highlight of this disc is Berio's iconic 5-movement Sinfonia, undoubtedly his most well-known work, written for the New York Philharmonic and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein. It has become one of the key works and principal musical manifestations of the 1960s bringing together collage technique and modernism.

The recording begins with Berio's orchestral adaptation of Luigi Boccherini's popular Ritirata Notturna di Madrid. This disc also includes Calmo for mezzo-soprano and 22 instruments written by Berio after the death of a fellow composer and a friend Bruno Maderna. The work is sung here by mezzo-soprano Virpi Räisänen, a singer acclaimed for his performances of 20th century music and whose solo debut recording can be found on Ondine (ODE 1208-2).

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Review by John Broggio - February 20, 2015

A superlative disc full of shocks for the unsuspecting listener that deserves to be known as widely as possible.

The first shock is the treatment of Boccherini's String Quintet in C major, G. 324 "La Musica Notturna delle strade di Madrid": completely tonal and without a angular harmony in earshot, this glorious re-orchestration is a carefully graduated crescendo and diminuendo, expertly executed by the Finnish players. They and Lintu clearly revel in the outrageous reimagining that Berio gifted this work (a fine interpretation of the original can be heard on this disc: Boccherini: Fandango & Sinfonias - Savall)

The next piece, Calmo, is more "conventional" Berio (if such a thing is possible!) and lasting for around 15 minutes, is Berio's musical reaction to the sudden death of his compatriot & fellow composer/conductor, Bruno Maderna. Virpi Räisänen and Lintu provide a suitably respectful account and this change of musical style prefaces what must be counted as the musical centerpiece of this disc: Berio's seminal Sinfonia for 8 voices and orchestra.

In 5 movements, Lintu & the Finnish RSO begin by building the emerging complexity of Berio's score with methodical care. By contrast, the second movement is much more static and is, like Calmo, a memorial to an important figure: Martin Luther King. Under the chorale-like textures from the singers, the orchestra deploys stinging barbs and, from the strings, an example of Berio's ability to "melt" the harmonies. At the close of the movement, we hear his name together; before, it was fragmented into disconnected syllables of his name.

The third movement, "In ruhig fliessender Bewegung", would in itself guarantee Berio musical immortality: perhaps the most remarkable transfiguration of another composers work to date, Berio takes Mahler's Scherzo from his 2nd Symphony and overlays it with (mainly) Beckett which is alternately measured and freely paced throughout the music. Then, and this is the moment of unquestioning genius that all music lovers (particularly of the fin de siecle) should hear: Berio very effectively subverts Mahler into everything from La Mer to The Rite of Spring to Der Rosenkavalier (and many many more) whilst keeping the pace and narrative of Mahler's composition. Unlike other accounts, Lintu respects Berio's instruction that the singers should be a "section of the orchestra" and not be too prominent. This may initially lead to disappointment that the (very good) singers here do not have as much impact as in other places but the effect of a musical kaleidoscope of sound is much more subtle and evocative as a result. (Incidentally, Lintu & his Finnish orchestra sound as though they'd give fine accounts of the above pieces - we can but hope!)

"Normality" resumes in the fourth movement, opening with another quote of Mahler 2 (this time, the finale) and is largely static. Lintu and his ensemble make the most of the unsettled harmonies and this leads naturally into the fifth movement. As the fifth movement synthesises the previous four movements, it is easily the most musically complex part of the work; despite this, Lintu & his forces sound completely in control and make a highly persuasive account of this musical tour de force.

The recording is fortunately fully equal to the demands of this extraordinary music. The Boccherini shows what a wonderful dynamic range is afforded to the players as well as what must be considered microphone placement so that details are captured but never at the expense of appearing to spotlight players: every contribution feels a natural part of the whole tonal picture. Similar considerations apply in the following more avant garde works.

Very strongly recommended indeed.

Copyright © 2015 John Broggio and HRAudio.net

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