Berio: Sinfonia, Ekphrasis

Berio: Sinfonia, Ekphrasis

     
 
Since it is probably his best-known composition, it's fitting that the posthumous 80th-birthday tributes to Luciano Berio (1925-2003) should include a new recording of his Sinfonia (1968). Being such a multi-layered collage, with eight amplified voices (originally performed by the Swingle Singers, here by the London Voices) weaving around a huge orchestra,

Overview

Since it is probably his best-known composition, it's fitting that the posthumous 80th-birthday tributes to Luciano Berio (1925-2003) should include a new recording of his Sinfonia (1968). Being such a multi-layered collage, with eight amplified voices (originally performed by the Swingle Singers, here by the London Voices) weaving around a huge orchestra, reciting texts in multiple languages, intoning the name of Martin Luther King, and scat-singing, it's hard to imagine a definitive performance or recording of this curiously dense work. Yet each interpretation reveals new facets and hidden details, making Peter Eötvös's version a welcome addition to those already in the catalog from Pierre Boulez and Riccardo Chailly. Eötvös -- and perhaps more crucially, Deutsche Grammophon's engineers -- manage the tricky balances between voices and instruments as ably as their predecessors, although somehow the cumulative impact of this recording doesn't quite match the competition, perhaps because the Gothenburg Symphony isn't the strongest among the orchestras that have attempted this complicated score. Recordings of Sinfonia are inevitably coupled with a more recent Berio orchestral piece -- Eindrücke for Boulez, Formazioni for Chailly -- and this one is no exception, offering up a beautiful performance of Ekphrasis (Continuo II) (1996). This 20-minute composition was the final orchestral work that Berio completed, and its shimmering textures and hovering blocks of harmony make an immediate but lasting impression. Even if this version of Sinfonia is best taken as a supplement to the existing discography rather than a replacement, all admirers of Berio -- and new-music listeners in general -- are urgently advised to immerse themselves in Ekphrasis in order to experience the prismatic colors and spaces the composer was exploring in his valedictory works.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Luciano Berio's "Sinfonia" (1968) is one of the most celebrated works of the avant-garde, and it will be remembered much longer than many other large-scale experiments of its time. The collision of its materials -- philosophical, literary, political, musical -- reflected the welter of ideas clamoring for attention in the 1960s, and Berio's gigantic collage for the Swingle Singers and the New York Philharmonic seems a near-perfect embodiment of the period's Zeitgeist. However, much of "Sinfonia"'s fame also has to do with its recording history; thanks to two landmark recordings by Leonard Bernstein and Pierre Boulez, it became established as a classic. This 2005 Deutsche Grammophon release with the London Voices and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Eötvös, presents the work with intensity and vivid color, and many details hard to hear on the Columbia and Erato recordings are delightfully clear here. However, after hearing the vital performances by the Swingle Singers, one may find the London Voices a bit too imitative and forced, as if this group spent too much time studying the previous recordings to mimic their feeling and flavor. Aside from this point, this is still a terrific version that will satisfy any who have not been spoiled by the above recordings, and may interest those who are open to an alternate rendition.
New York Times - James R. Oestreich
The new recording sheds fascinating light [on Berio's Sinfonia].... Mr. Eotvos turns the work into the symphony of its title rather than the quasi-theatrical creation it has generally seemed. His conception is persuasive.

Product Details

Release Date:
09/13/2005
Label:
Deutsche Grammophon
UPC:
0028947753803
catalogNumber:
000475902

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Sinfonia, for 8 amplified voices & orchestra
  2. Ekphrasis, for orchestra ("Continuo II")

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