Monday, March 28, 2011

Better Know a Composer: Luciano Berio

I recently posted a note on the Carnegie Hall blog about Mozart's Zaide, which in the version that Ensemble ACJW is performing on Thursday really isn't Mozart's at all. Throughout the unfinished singpspiel is music that Luciano Berio (1925-2003) wrote back in 1995: the show starts and ends with it; it interrupts the action at two points during of the opera. Whether you like it or not, Berio's music asserts itself and--as a recurring comment on the action--hijacks the event.

Berio showed a penchant throughout his career for this kind of appropriation, and people who know his music will compare the Zaide music to the third movement of Sinfonia (1968).

Spoken texts from Beckett's The Unnamable--and Berio's own writings--uncomfortably intermingle with Mahler's scherzo movement from the Second Symphony, and quotations of Schoenberg and Debussy (for example). Here, things are not cut and dry: although Mahler is the clear focus, all the borrowed material works together--and gets worked upon. Nothing appears whole and unmolested, as it does in the Zaide commentary.

Although Berio was Italian, he had strong connections to New York and the US (click here for more).