These recordings were made in 1969 when Luciano Berio (1925–2003) was in the fourth year of a six-year appointment at the Juilliard School of Music in New York. During these years he taught composition and analysis, and also created the group heard on this CD, the Juilliard Ensemble.
In the late 1960s Berio’s reputation had grown to make him one of the leading figures in contemporary music, conducting the New York Philharmonic and the Swingle Singers in a performance of part of his Sinfonia. It was the large-scale and theatrical works that dominated his output later in his career, but early on he had produced some remarkable music for chamber groups. When planning this recording Berio wished to show how his music had evolved from the early Due pezzi for violin and piano of 1957, to the newly completed Sequenza VII for solo oboe, composed for Heinz Holliger.
Chamber Music for female voice, harp, cello and clarinet sets words by James Joyce, and was written for Berio’s first wife, the American soprano Cathy Berberian. Berio’s flexible and contrapuntally lucid use of the 12-tone method (a tribute to Webern and Dallapiccola) is apparent in the Sequenza III – another work composed for his wife.
“Definitive performances from Cathy Berberian and Heinz Holliger in their respective Sequenzas are the highlights in this intriguing programme.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2011 ****
“In part a memorial to the late lamented Cathy Berberian, the LP also illustrates how far Berio travelled during the 1950s (between his mid-twenties and mid-thirties), from the Schoenbergian fractiousness of the Due pezzi,
through the fresh lyricism and vivid miniature dramas of Chamber Music to the spacious yet never ponderous gestural interplay of Différences – the whole point of which is to show that the ‘differences’ need not be
absolute. The interpretations on this record are definitive, the music is fascinating, and anyone who missed the issue four years ago should not hesitate this time.” Gramophone Magazine, October 1984
“This charming disc, a reissue of a 1970 LP, comprises five of Berio’s influential early works...The soprano Cathy Berberian is the vocal prestidigitator in Sequenza III, written for her, and more conventionally eloquent in the crystal-clear Joyce settings of Chamber Music, with clarinet, cello and harp.” Sunday Times, 13th March 2011 ***
“There's something comfortingly modernist about the early-50s piano and violin duets...But it is Différences, composed for five instruments playing alongside tape treatments of themselves, that most impresses here: always lively and inquisitive, the breezy interplay of wind, harp and strings flourishing while never baulking at the more astringent discordancies.” The Independent, 25th February 2011 ****