This is the great classical work of the nineteen sixties: an exuberant collage of bits and pieces by other composers superimposed on a movement from a Mahler symphony. It’s the moment when all Berio’s experience and experiments came together for the first time to make a masterpiece that speaks to the widest audience (and not just classical fans). It’s a typically (for Berio) multi-layered work, encompassing exciting orchestral virtuosity, politics, singing, death (there is a moving lament for Martin Luther King) and, above all, sheer energy and fun.
Having just returned from a great concert at the Festival Hall London with this piece by the Sao Paulo Orchestra on tour under Marin Alsop with the latest grouping of the redoubtable Swingle Singers, I returned - yet again, I am a child of the Sixties being aged 9 to 18 through that decade - anyway, to this very special disc in the original ERATO release, I must say thank you Mr Boulez, as on the record, and all the other reviewers who mainly think this is a top ten recording. The playfulness, rage and protest (yes it occupies a special boiling point in that decade in the aftermath of the Paris student riotswhere it was composed) but sheer toppsy turvey chic and flair of those years is all there. "Keep going going"...yes, to the thousands in Brazil and elsewhere round the world who were to be hunted down and murdered by the henchman in various fascist regimes and military dictatorships round the world sponsored by the USA. It's a fun piece, but the underlying meaning is deadly subversive and triumphant! Or is it a reminder that those dark days have never gone away?
I think this performance is there, centred in the heart of the music. I can imagine more driven performances, but I really love clarity and focus. So this is great. Also authentic...given the performers.
The sound on this disc is absolutely fabulous. Each voice and instrument is accurately pinpointed - more than one can say in the dreadful acoustic of the Festival Hall (and I was in a £50 seat). For an early digital disc some miracle happened here, which defies explanation, especially when you consider some of the stinkers turned out by Erato and Radio France over the years.
The Sinfonia was dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, a very representative figure of the 1960s, and his student, Marin Alsop gave London a great performance coupling it with Lenny's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. But it was the Berio that stole the show!