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Russell Davies conducts Maderna transcriptions and Berio’s Chemins V

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Now, and Then
Berio: Chemins V; Maderna: transcriptions of Frescobaldi, Legrenzi, G Gabrieli, Viadana and Wassenaer
Pablo Márquez (guitar); Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana/Dennis Russell Davies
ECM 481 5034

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At first glance the thinking behind this disc seems pretty obvious. Berio is framed by transcriptions of earlier (mostly) Italian masters made by his great friend and fellow composer Bruno Maderna – the ‘ancient’ supplying thoughtful context for the modern. On closer inspection, though, things are not all they seem. Chemins V turns out to be itself an arrangement, an amplification Berio made in 1992, adding a chamber orchestra to the Sequenza XI for solo guitar he had composed a few years earlier. Thus the CD is more profoundly a conversation about the aesthetics, mechanics and ethos of the arranger’s art.

Webern, Stravinsky and Elgar’s orchestrations of JS Bach have differing goals and outcomes; Maderna’s motivation was, according to liner notes writer Paul Griffiths, love, and Frescobaldi to Wassenaer, Gabrieli to Viadana, he was generous in his transcribing affections. Fastidiously made, they’re affectionately realised by Dennis Russell Davies and the Lugano-based orchestra, though there’s no disguising that the ‘main event’ is the premiere recording of the Berio respray which jolts the senses after some perky Legrenzi. Pablo Márquez is the soloist, carefully negotiating a way through the flamenco-meets-classical intersections of what now, instrumentally swaddled, suggests a nocturne, by turns enchanted and assailed.

Paul Riley

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