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Luciano Berio - Vocal Works

Berio Vocal Works
As Berio expert David Osmond-Smith puts it, "the seminal works of the early sixties were written not for 'the voice', but for a voice: that of Cathy Berberian". The Berberian work par excellence, Recital I (1971), encapsulates her vivid theatrical gifts, offering a "deconstructed recital" in which the soloist tries to work through her repertoire with a chamber orchestra while supplying a Beckett-like stream-of-consciousness commentary.

The theatrical element is more muted in the earlier Circles (1960), where the singer's circular movement around the stage is mirrored by a musical circle in which three poems by e. e. cummings are progressively deconstructed into their constituent phonetic parts, then put back together again. A very different type of vocal writing is explored in Folk Songs (1964), a knowing but irresistibly lovely transcription of songs from around the world which has proved Berio's most popular and accessible work.

CD Recommendations

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Recital I for Cathy; Folk Songs: Berberian; London Sinfonietta; Juilliard Ensemble; Berio (RCA 09026 62540 2; with songs by Weill).

A classic recording from Berberian: it's hard to imagine anyone surpassing her marvellously deranged performance of Recital I, while the full reach of her expressive abilities is beautifully captured in the more mainstream Folk Songs.
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SheetMusic by Berio