Berio: Sinfonia; Canticum novissimi testamenti II

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LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Sinfonia; Canticum novissimi testamenti II
PERFORMER: London Sinfonietta Voices, Raschèr Saxophone Quartet, Electric Phoenix, Orchestre de Paris/Semyon Bychkov
A new recording of the Sinfonia is no longer the event it would have been a decade ago. The real excitement of this disc is the appearance for the first time of Canticum novissimi testamenti II, one of Berio’s most powerful and poetic pieces of the last decade. Some of his most important scores have resulted from collaborations with the poet Edoardo Sanguineti, and it is Sanguineti’s long meditation on mortality, Novissimum testamentum, that provides the text for this setting for eight voices, four clarinets and saxophone quartet. The richness of the vocal and instrumental writing is extraordinary – by turns hieratic, conversational or surreally funny, with the extracts bound together by the recurrence of the word ‘canticum’, and the sounds of the reed instruments augmented by the whistling and clapping of the chorus.


The London Sinfonietta Voices, long-time champions of Berio, realise all these changes of colour and mood with wonderful fluency, and Bychkov conducts a thoroughly flexible and incisive performance. He is equally convincing in the Sinfonia, even if his account of the famous collage movement is less overtly theatrical than some of the earlier versions. But the coupling is both commercially and musically a well judged one. Andrew Clements