Berio: Complete works for solo piano

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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.


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.


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