Pierre Boulez / Orchestre National de France

Luciano Berio: Sinfonia; Eindrücke

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Berio's Sinfonia is a gloss on music history, modern literature, and the late '60s cultural milieu. Despite the presence of the Zeitgeist, it does not sound as dated today as other contemporaneous works do in hindsight. The piece's dovetailed references and quotations have meanings that extend beyond their use as a commentary on the times. The first movement is formulated around a pedal-point, upon which are strung vocalizations and pointillistic pitch arrangements. In "O King," a moving tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., the syllables of his name are prolonged to produce layers of resonant harmonies. "In ruhig fliessender Bewegung" is built on the scherzo from Mahler's Symphony No. 2, and snippets of Berlioz, Stravinsky, Ravel, and Strauss, among others, rush by as an unstable context for the questioning Beckett texts and solfeggio singing. The hushed fourth movement returns to the elegiac mood of "O King." The summation of the work is the fifth movement, which draws the work's various strands together in a fleeting synopsis. The New Swingle Singers and the Orchestre National de France, conducted by Pierre Boulez, give a concentrated and focused performance. "Eindrücke," a short work of cycling pitches and softly articulated chords, closes out the disc.

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