Berio Mahler
Sinfonia, Frühe Lieder
Matthias Goerne b,  Synergy Vocals, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Josep Pons
Harmonia Mundi  HMC9022180

“I studied at the Schola Cantorum in Montserrat where I heard Mahler’s music for the first time. Straight after, friends gave me the symphonies, conducted by Bernard Haitink. That was the soundtrack to my life.” Josep Pons

Read our review here.

German music filtered through an Italian glass

Mention the Italian composer Luciano Berio and I immediately think of the human voice, and of one voice in particular – that of his first wife, Cathy Berberian. Expressive, beguiling and one-of-a-kind, Berberian was a vocal chameleon; at home in a range of styles from Monteverdi to pop, and of course the perfect vehicle for Berio’s eclectic creations.

One of the better known of these creations is Berio’s five-movement Sinfonia from 1968. Having left behind his interest in serialism, Berio revels in an artistic freedom that heralds Postmodernism. Written for the 125th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic and dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, the Sinfonia is a kaleidoscopic collage of texts and references. The central, third movement uses the Scherzo of Mahler’s Second Symphony as a ‘skeleton’ that emerges at various times from a whole range of other musical quotations. Preceding this is a movement entitled “O King”, in honour of Martin Luther King, in which phonetic elements eventually emerge to utter King’s name. Josep Pons and his forces make a very compelling case for the revival of this currently unfashionable music. Berio’s mixture of creative fun – and deep respect for music history and the voice – is very satisfying indeed.

Berio’s orchestrations of Mahler’s Ten Early Lieder display the same qualities. Sung with superb attention to detail by Matthias Goerne, these songs evoke Mahler’s visions with renewed intensity. Tony Way


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