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Luciano BERIO (1925-2003)
Orchestral Realisations
Rendering (1988) [32:36]
Sonata Op. 120 No. 1 (1986)* [23:55]
Sechs frühe Lieder (1987)+ [16:10]
Michael Collins (clarinet)*
Roderick Williams (baritone)+
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner
rec. 16-19 August 2011, Grieghallen, Bergen, Norway.
CHANDOS CHSA 5101 [73:33]

Experience Classicsonline

Edward Gardner continues to expand his masterful catalogue of contemporary music recordings. This superb programme reveals an aspect of Luciano Berio’s creative output which may prove a pleasant surprise to many who have already tested his musical waters and withdrawn their toe with a mild ‘eek!’ of modern music mortification.
Berio made numerous arrangements, orchestrations and transcriptions, at times leaving the original relatively intact, in certain instances using his own idiom to enrich or, in the case of Rendering, complete a score left unfinished by its original composer. This first piece in the programme uses sketches left by Schubert of a Symphony in D major, D 936A. The Schubert moments are filled with remarkable features – it’s ‘new’ Schubert, but I would imagine few people identifying it as such on a blind hearing. There’s a moment right at the start which sounds like Nielsen, and the slow second movement seems to anticipate Mahler. Berio’s own contributions are entirely magical, creating wonderful soundscapes of ethereal beauty, using all kinds of tuned percussion and other effects. The boundaries between the new and the ‘old’ are well defined, but also inhabit similar kinds of strange other-worldliness. Berio uses and quotes Schubert, but is also unafraid to step beyond into dreams and fantasy which are at times unsettling, but always deeply inspiring.
Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 No. 1 is given a fairly straightforward orchestral arrangement, with a light-toned accompaniment of strings and winds, three horns, two trumpets and timpani. Berio adds extra bars to the opening of the first and second movements, but in such a way that you are unlikely to notice unless you know the original well. This is an intensely sensitive version, both in conception and performance – the mellow tone and expressive phrasing of Michael Collins’ clarinet peerlessly matched to the orchestra’s gentle palette of colour and textures.
The Six Early Songs by Gustav Mahler is given an appropriately Mahler-sized orchestra by Berio, with full brass, triple woodwinds, percussion, harp and celesta to add sparkle to the massed strings. Even with these large forces there is a delicacy of touch which makes these songs wonderfully attractive. Mahler himself was in a state of amorous euphoria for at least part of the time while writing these songs. The folk music influences and generally uplifting character of the music makes for a genuinely marvellous listening experience. Berio’s imaginative orchestration in, for instance, the rising melodic motif in the second of the songs, Ich ging mit Lust durch einen grünen Wald, goes with chiming sustained notes in the winds early in the song. This stands as a kind of musical fingerprint representative of the superlative quality of the whole. It’s almost certainly not what Mahler would have done, but I bet he would have liked it. Roderick Williams’ baritone is very well suited to these songs, and he enunciates the texts with clarity and negotiates Mahler’s open melodic shapes with natural and unmannered expressiveness. All song texts are printed in the booklet in German, English and French.
Both Rendering and the Sonata Op. 120 No. 1 appear on an excellent re-issue collection from Italian Decca (see review), conducted with verve by Riccardo Chailly. The refinement which Gardner and the Bergen Philharmonic bring to Rendering is truly and hauntingly magnificent, but also adds a kind of Disney gloss which you may or may not prefer to Chailly’s Italian forces. Michael Collins’ Brahms would be my version of choice, Fausto Ghiazzi’s solo also being very good, but with a few moments of mildly stressed intonation in the lower register, and with a more lumpy feel to the accompaniment. Berio fans will want this for the other pieces in the programme, but if you are happy with the selection on this Chandos release then the performances and recording fill the bill to perfection.
If you are scared of Berio, please re-adjust your trepidations with this disc. You will be missing a great deal if you allow prejudice to put you off. The character of the original composers is preserved and enhanced by Berio’s treatments of their scores, and the extended Schubert will give you the kind of thrills, chills and bewitchment you won’t find in many other recordings. Chandos’s 5.0 surround and stereo recording is a treat as per usual, with a marvellous balance between atmosphere and detail, also presenting soloists and orchestra in pleasantly unified acoustic harmony.
Dominy Clements

see review by Nick Barnard










































































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