Berio: Sequenzas I, IV, VIII, IXa & XIV; Due pezzi; Lied; Les mots sont allés…; Musica Leggera

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Black Box
WORKS: Sequenzas I, IV, VIII, IXa & XIV; Due pezzi; Lied; Les mots sont allés…; Musica Leggera
PERFORMER: Ex Novo Ensemble
The Ex Novo Ensemble presents a series of solo calling cards in the five Sequenzas which are the meat of this disc. Compared with the complete DG recording from the Ensemble Intercontemperain the actual sound is closer, almost too much so in


the flute Sequenza I, though the

key-clicking effects come across

with enormous clarity. The playing here doesn’t have the airborne spontaneity of that DG version, though it’s as assured technically. The same holds in the piano Sequenza IV, where the flurries of decorative notes aren’t as crystalline and sharp-edged. Honours are more equally shared in the violin Sequenza VIII, with its display of double stops alternating with lyricism, and the clarinet Sequenza IXa, though in both cases the Ex Novo players are softer-toned and more yielding.

In the cello Sequenza XIV, written after the DG set was issued, the close recording is not so much of an issue, as it allows all the sonorities that Berio conjures from the instrument to come through. They’re impressively done, with the drumming on the body or the strings, the pizzicatos and wide ranging melodic lines all making

a tremendous overall effect.


After that, the early Due Pezzi for violin and piano sound quite conventional, with much more of a sense of regular pulse, and singing (if serially organised) melodic lines. It’s tightly played, as is Musica Leggera, a short, dancing trio with a Renaissance feel, that’s charming and compelling. A good collection, but the Sequenzas are even better served in the DG set. Martin Cotton