Peter Eötvös / Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra

Luciano Berio: Sinfonia

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Luciano Berio's Sinfonia (1968) is one of the most celebrated works of the avant-garde, and it will be remembered much longer than many other large-scale experiments of its time. The collision of its materials -- philosophical, literary, political, musical -- reflected the welter of ideas clamoring for attention in the 1960s, and Berio's gigantic collage for the Swingle Singers and the New York Philharmonic seems a near-perfect embodiment of the period's Zeitgeist. However, much of Sinfonia's fame also has to do with its recording history; thanks to two landmark recordings by Leonard Bernstein and Pierre Boulez, it became established as a classic. This 2005 Deutsche Grammophon release with the London Voices and the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Peter Eötvös, presents the work with intensity and vivid color, and many details hard to hear on the Columbia and Erato recordings are delightfully clear here. However, after hearing the vital performances by the Swingle Singers, one may find the London Voices a bit too imitative and forced, as if this group spent too much time studying the previous recordings to mimic their feeling and flavor. Aside from this point, this is still a terrific version that will satisfy any who have not been spoiled by the above recordings, and may interest those who are open to an alternate rendition.

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