Berio: Complete works for solo piano

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COMPOSERS: Berio
LABELS: New Albion
WORKS: Complete works for solo piano
PERFORMER: David Arden (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NA 089 (distr. Harmonia Mundi)
The American pianist David Arden’s superlatively played CD contains everything Berio has written for solo piano: from the entertainingly neo-classical Petite Suite of 1947 to a pair of pieces dating from 1990. Cinque Variazioni and Sequenza IV are the only single-movement compositions lasting much more than four minutes.

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The former – composed in 1952-3, extensively revised in 1966 – is ‘apprentice Berio’, taking off both thematically and stylistically from Dallapiccola, but refracted through Berio’s later preoccupations. Sequenza IV (1965-6, revised 1993) turns many of the same concerns – exploration of piano sonorities, for instance – to more obviously individual, indeed masterly account, offsetting sustained chords against fragmented, more dramatic material in a cleverly contrived 12-minute structure.

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The remaining seven little pieces are all exquisite vignettes in which resonance often remains an issue. Erdenklavier (1969), for instance, is an enigmatic exploration of sounds initially sustained ‘in a rather elaborate polyphony of finger action’, to quote John Thow’s exemplary notes. Luftklavier (1985) is a Debussian combination of ‘ostinato cloud’ and melody, Feuerklavier (1989) a brilliant toccata. Byways of a great composer well worth investigating. Keith Potter