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Prom 4: Berio wins me over

July 17, 2007

Don’t worry if you don’t know anything about the composer Luciano Berio. I didn’t earlier on today and, seeing as I’ve made a bee-line to listen to his work called Sinfonia from this evening’s Prom (#4)I made a point of reading up on him.

What I discovered wasn’t initially easy reading. A number of people waxed lyrical about his big work Sinfonia but few were able to allay my fears. This was music written in the late 1960s. There was talk of electronic music, a sneaking regard for John Cage (who is a god, quite frankly, but still only one of the few composers of the time I actually warm to) and lots of indecipherable speech emanating from the soloists during the performance.

I wasn’t convinced I knew enough about the piece to enjoy it and yet when I finally settled down to listen to the performance on Radio 3 this evening * I was amazed to discover that the commentator for the evening – the adorable Penny Gore – didn’t impart any more information than I knew already. That truly was reassuring.

The performance of Berio’s Sinfonia was absolutely stunning. True, the band could have played any old shit and I still wouldn’t have known but would have loved it, but even so I found myself doing something I don’t normally do when I’m sat on the sofa.

Focussed on hearing music I’d never heard before I soon found myself relaxing to Berio’s bizarre orchestrations and controlling vocal directions. The Swingle Singers and the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia both turned in excellent performances demonstrating both a demanding score and their own accomplishment.

It might be a little odd to listen to initially, but try it. Berio’s Sinfonia was a joy of a discovery and one which comes with a Thoroughly Good Recommendation from me

Listen again on the Radio 3 website. The Berio is in the first half.

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