Berio • Brahms • Mahler

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Berio/Brahms/Mahler
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Berio/Brahms/Mahler
WORKS: Rendering; Clarinet Sonata Op. 120 No. 1; Sechs frühe Lieder (arr. Berio)
PERFORMER: Roderick Williams (baritone), Michael Collins (clarinet); Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Gardner
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5101

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Berio was as capable of being as avant-garde as the best of them, but he also had a strong Romantic streak. That’s the side mostly on offer here. The 20th-century Italian composer’s versions of the Mahler songs are straightforward and affectionately sung by Roderick Williams. Edward Gardner’s colourful, warm support is better balanced than Thomas Hampson’s recording with Berio conducting.

The arrangement of Brahms’s Clarinet Sonata is a little more interventionist, with a few extra bars, in Brahms’s style, at the starts of the first two movements. Michael Collins’s tone is bright and direct, but can become hectoring in the more strenuous passages, although the slow movement and Ländler-like Allegretto are delightful. The recording is clean and sympathetic.

Berio himself looms larger in Rendering, where he takes Schubert’s sketches for his Symphony No. 10 and fills in the gaps with musings on what might have been, with no attempt to create pastiche. The sound of the celesta, alien to Schubert, signals these departures into a dream world, which Gardner captures atmospherically. His assured sense of style in Schubert’s material is compelling.

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Martin Cotton