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Luciano Berio - Sinfonia

Berio Sinfonia
Sinfonia (196869), for eight amplified voices and orchestra, was part of a wider pattern of response to the musical crisis of the 1960s, during which avant-garde composers began once again to look to music of the past for material and inspiration a turn towards so-called "meta music", or music about music. The third movement of Sinfonia is one of the most famous and remarkable examples of this approach: a dense fabric of verbal quotations contained within a musical quotation, the Scherzo from Mahler's Symphony No. 2, which is borrowed virtually wholesale and then used as a kind of musical armature around which Berio concocts a dazzling semantic and musical labyrinth, including further quotations (from Mahler, Ravel and Debussy, among others) and chattering texts drawn from Samuel Beckett's The Unnameable. The four outer movements frame this central tour de force with further, though more understated, explorations of the relationship between text and note most tellingly in the second movement, "O King", a moving homage to Martin Luther King which gradually constructs a quietly intoned vocal setting of his name out of its constituent vowel sounds a procedure analagous to that used in Circles.

CD Recommendations

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Concertgebouw Orchestra; Electric Phoenix; van Nes; Chailly (Decca 425 832-2; with Folk Songs and Formazioni).

The expressive breadth and richness of Berio's music is beautifully captured in these sumptuous performances, with Electric Phoenix the accomplished protagonists in the verbal and vocal pyrotechnics of Sinfonia, and Jard van Nes the excellent soloist in Folk Songs. Formazioni (1987), one of Berio's most striking orchestral works, completes the disc
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SheetMusic by Berio