Nono: Prometeo

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WORKS: Prometeo
PERFORMER: Ingrid Ade-Jesemann, Monika Bair-Ivenz, Susanne Otto, Helena Rasker, Peter HallFreiburg Soloists Choir, Ensemble Modern/Ingo Metzmacher
The music Luigi Nono wrote in the decade before his death in 1990 is some of the most distinctive and important of the second half of this century. It explores an expressive world quite unlike that of any other composer, a rarefied place in which gestures are stripped of their rhetoric and pared down to their essence, and the physical space in which the music moves is as significant as the pitches and rhythms that define it. The starting point for his late work is the string quartet Fragmente-Stille, which is arguably his masterpiece, but the pivot about which all his subsequent pieces revolved was the ‘tragedy for listening’ Prometeo, which occupied Nono between 1981 and 1984. Its appearance on CD now is an important event.


The text for what began as an opera, a successor to Nono’s Al gran sole carico d’amore, was provided by the philosopher Massimo Cacciari, whose influence runs through all Nono’s late works. But the final result lacks all theatrical trappings; the drama is internalised and the meditation upon the Prometheus myth proceeds through a series of serene, spare contemplations, with chorus, soloists and instrumentalists arrayed around the performing space and electronics transforming and projecting the sounds. A live performance is an extraordinary experience; on disc Prometeo is perhaps harder to grasp, and this performance, recorded at the Salzburg Festival in 1993, has to contend with more audience noise than would be ideal.Still, for such a significant work, beggars can’t be choosers. Andrew Clements