series occupied him throughout his career.
Not only did he compose such Sequenzas
for solo instruments till late in his
composing life; he also re-worked some
of them later adding orchestral or instrumental
commentary onto the solo part of the
original. There are several examples
of this amongst the Chemins (such
as Chemins II heard here)
or in Corale (1981, based
on Sequenza VIII for solo
violin). Chemins II for
viola and nine players is based on Sequenza
VI (1967) for solo viola. Some
time later, Berio completed Chemins
III adding a full orchestra
to the viola-and-ensemble version heard
here. However, neither Chemins
II nor Chemins III
should be regarded as viola concertos.
In fact, the solo part is fully absorbed
into the orchestral fabric, exploiting
the latent potentialities of the solo
Sequenza rather than merely "orchestrating"
it. Naturale for viola,
percussion and tape, completed in 1985,
is a sequel to Voci (1984)
for viola and orchestra, in that both
pieces are based on Sicilian tunes.
In the case of Naturale,
a Sicilian street singer is heard on
tape, whereas the viola in turn muses
on the tunes, comments on them, sets
out to imitate or contradict them in
a most imaginative way, the percussion
adding a further dimension to the proceedings.
Naturale was new to me;
and it is a real find, for this is a
quite beautiful piece of music. I also
enjoyed Desjardins’ performance of this
technically demanding, but ultimately
very attractive work. A welcome addition
to Berio’s discography.
The two pieces by Feldman
heard here are in stark contrast to
Berio’s works. Berio is all imagination
and lively energy, whereas Feldman is
all restraint, softness, tenderness
even. Rothko Chapel for
viola, mixed chorus (wordless) and percussion
is a beautiful work, fairly simple in
conception but perfectly balanced. It
is Feldman in his minimalist, almost
mystical manner. The music hovers timelessly,
in rarefied air, punctuated by sparse
but suggestive percussion, with telling
results. In the coda, the viola intones
a fine melody - written when the composer
was fifteen - curiously reminiscent
of Vaughan Williams.
Feldman composed four
pieces sharing the same title, i.e.
The Viola in My Life: for viola
and five players (1970), viola and six
players (1970) heard here, viola and
piano (1970), viola and orchestra (1971).
In The Viola in My Life II,
the music again moves slowly, dreamily,
sparsely supported by a few isolated
instrumental touches from the ensemble.
Curiously enough, the expressive strength
of this and of Rothko Chapel
is inversely proportional to the economy
of means displayed.
is a formidable musician. His faultless
technique goes hand in hand with a generous
musicality. He plays beautifully throughout,
whereas Jonathan Nott secures immaculate,
precise playing and singing from the
Collegium Novum and the Basler Madrigalisten.
This is a marvellous release and my
disc of the month.