WORKS: Voci; Naturale
PERFORMER: Kim Kashkashian (viola), Robyn Schulkowsky (percussion); Vienna RSO/Dennis Russell Davies
CATALOGUE NO: 461 808-2
Throughout his career, Berio has repeatedly returned to the world of folksong, most famously in the set
of Folk Songs he arranged in 1964 for his first wife Cathy Berberian. That luminous work draws on material from across Europe, but in Voci (1984) and its companion piece Naturale, composed a couple of years later, Berio narrows his focus to concentrate exclusively on the rich, highly coloured world of traditional Sicilian melody. Voci is a viola concerto in all but name, with the solo instrument embedded in the swirling textures of two instrumental groups, and explores the expressive potential of the folksongs in ways that seem both constantly surprising and lyrically natural.
Kim Kashkashian’s superb performance has all the qualities the work demands – not just all the necessary technical command, but also a real feeling for the bare-nerved emotions which propel the songs. There is nothing genteel or over-civilised about Voci, and Kashkashian is well aware of that. Archive recordings of the folksongs make a useful comparison with Berio’s use of them, while Naturale is a spin-off (originally composed for dance) in which the solo viola is supported by percussion in a gentle dialogue with some of the original field tapes. Fascinating, every bit of it. Andrew Clements