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Voci

Luciano Berio Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 22.74
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1. Voci (Folk Songs II) - Luciano Berio
2. Grido Del Venditore Di Pesce (Sicilian Folk Music)
3. Canzuna (Sicilian Folk Music)
4. Lamento Per Il Venerdi Santo (Sicilian Folk Music)
5. Novena Di Natale (Sicilian Folk Music)
6. Ninna Nanna (Sicilian Folk Music)
7. Specchiu Di L'occhi Mei (Sicilian Folk Music)
8. Naturale (Su Melodie Siciliane) - Luciano Berio

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Amazon.ca

Voci seems an appropriate title for a disc about the composer's personal responses to Sicilian folk music. There are three pieces on this album--the first, the aforementioned Voci, is scored for viola and full orchestra. Berio manages to successfully combine avant-garde techniques with more traditional harmonic and melodic procedures, so that more tuneful elements stand out. The folk aspects of the music can be discerned sometimes as distant impressions and sometimes almost as transcriptions. The scoring is large and spacious (three percussionists surround two inner ensembles and the violist), but is used sparingly. The piece itself is powerful and raw, helped by Kashkashian's gritty, virtuosic playing. Of the other tracks, Naturale is a closer reflection of Sicilian folk music, but belongs very much to the vein of Voci. All the recordings have a rather "live" element to them, and this helps to draw out the vibrancy of the music. --Dominic Sewell

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Berio I've Ever Heard Aug. 28 2002
Format:Audio CD
I've often had a love/hate relationship with the music of Berio, I'm not sure exactly why. His more serialist music never seemed startlingly original to me...the Sequenzia, though interesting as experiments, never really grabbed me as pieces (though that may be a prejudice that I've often harbored against solo instrumental pieces...one that I've only recently begun to work through by listening to the Bach Cello Suites again.) And the Sinfonia, which has often been touted as his masterpiece, seems to me to be increasingly dated...sounding more and more like the work of a flower child. Then along comes this CD and I rethink everything that I've ever thought about this composer. These are amoung the most original and stunning works of the last 20 years.
The Cd is dominated by two pieces, Voci for viola and orchestra and Naturale for viola and percussion and tape. In between the two Berio pieces are field recordings of Sicilian folk songs upon which the works are based. The folk music is arresting, sounding more mideastern than Italian and thus showing Sicily's roots in the Moorish empire. (Sardinian and Corsican music have much the same impact.) The music is highly melismatic, and dominated by microtones and unusual textures.
Just these recordings by themselves are haunting, but what Berio does with them is magnificent! Voci has it's antecedents in the Folk Song "arrangements" that Berio did for Cathy Berberian in the 60's (another of my favorite Berio pieces). But here, Berio completely subsumes the folk elements into his own style. While you can initially hear some of the motives from the folk songs, particularly in the viola part, the orchestra begins a running commentary that eventually transforms the material into something rich and strange.
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Format:Audio CD
This album is incredible on all levels, a startling accomplishment! This is the first Berio I've heard, and I could not be more impressed. "Voci" and "Naturale" are both 1980s compositions featuring traditional Sicilian folk melodies. "Voci" features viola and orchestra, while "Naturale" features viola, percussion, and a tape recording of a Sicilian folk singer. One of the brilliant aspects of this ECM disc is that in between the two Berio pieces are five field recordings of the Sicilian folk songs that are used in those pieces! An irony of "Voci" is that there are no vocals -- the melodies taken from the vocals of the folk songs are woven into the complex composition. The sound quality is superb, and the mesh of Berio's modernism with the folk music is beyond words. It reminds me of the way in which the free jazz of Ornette Coleman linked back to elements of pre-swing jazz, with its polytonal collective improvisation. In a similar way, the rough, bent notes of the folk songs loop and connect with Berio's post-tonality.
Kim Kashkashian is tremendous! Her viola is front and center through both compositions, a stunning showcase for her playing. I hope Berio's modernism will not be a deterrent for anyone who appreciates virtuosic performance -- in fact I hope if you do, you might have your ears opened to something beyond the standard repertoire! The ECM package goes beyond any high standard you might expect -- a booklet with gorgeous black and white photos of Sicily and a long essay by Jurg Stenzl is included with the jewel case in a box.
As of this writing, this is clearly one of the best 20th/21st century "classic" releases of 2002! Don't miss it...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Playing by Kaskashian!! March 28 2002
Format:Audio CD
Kim does it again with this great recording. The album contains a piece with viola and orchestra, recordings of old folk songs, and a piece with viola and percussion. It reminds me of Bartok because Berio uses some old folk tunes that are pretty apparent in the first track Voci. At the same time, I also hear a lot of purity to the music despite some dissonance in the composition. I really enjoy listening to Berio, and Kim's playing is at her best I think at this recording. I've often heard her playing criticized as too manufactured and not taking enough liberties, but regardless of what you think of her playing on perhaps Bartok or Brahms, her recording of Berio evokes excitement and beauty. I reccomend this recording!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Berio I've Ever Heard Aug. 28 2002
By Christopher Forbes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I've often had a love/hate relationship with the music of Berio, I'm not sure exactly why. His more serialist music never seemed startlingly original to me...the Sequenzia, though interesting as experiments, never really grabbed me as pieces (though that may be a prejudice that I've often harbored against solo instrumental pieces...one that I've only recently begun to work through by listening to the Bach Cello Suites again.) And the Sinfonia, which has often been touted as his masterpiece, seems to me to be increasingly dated...sounding more and more like the work of a flower child. Then along comes this CD and I rethink everything that I've ever thought about this composer. These are amoung the most original and stunning works of the last 20 years.
The Cd is dominated by two pieces, Voci for viola and orchestra and Naturale for viola and percussion and tape. In between the two Berio pieces are field recordings of Sicilian folk songs upon which the works are based. The folk music is arresting, sounding more mideastern than Italian and thus showing Sicily's roots in the Moorish empire. (Sardinian and Corsican music have much the same impact.) The music is highly melismatic, and dominated by microtones and unusual textures.
Just these recordings by themselves are haunting, but what Berio does with them is magnificent! Voci has it's antecedents in the Folk Song "arrangements" that Berio did for Cathy Berberian in the 60's (another of my favorite Berio pieces). But here, Berio completely subsumes the folk elements into his own style. While you can initially hear some of the motives from the folk songs, particularly in the viola part, the orchestra begins a running commentary that eventually transforms the material into something rich and strange. Comparisons are made in the liner notes to Bartok and they are apt comparisons, though the music sounds nothing like the Hungarian master. Rather, like Bartok, Berio completely internalizes his material...so much so that we can't speak of folk song quotations or influence in the music. It is all of a piece.
The same is true for Naturale, which inhabits the same basic world as Voci, albeit with more transparency. The ties to folk music are even stronger in this work, with the taped section consisting of fragments of field recordings. The field recorded material announces the "theme" of each section and is immediately commented on by the viola and percussion and eventually transformed. There are moments of such exquisite beauty in this work, that I nearly cried....something I rarely do with avant-garde music. But Berio transcends his avant-garde roots in this work, making such stylistic distinctions obsolete.
My only wish with this music is that Berio would continue more in this path. Other works of his from the 80s and 90s have left me with that cold feeling again...particuarly Continuum, which was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra a few years ago, and could have been written by half a dozen contemporary composers. The path of Voci and Naturale is much more interesting and the creative possibilities are endless. Please Mr. Berio, I'd like some more!
PS A great big thanks to austintrain, whose review below interested me enough in the piece that I overcame my Beriophobia and bought it. Boy am I glad I did!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Playing by Kaskashian!! March 28 2002
By "kenny375" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Kim does it again with this great recording. The album contains a piece with viola and orchestra, recordings of old folk songs, and a piece with viola and percussion. It reminds me of Bartok because Berio uses some old folk tunes that are pretty apparent in the first track Voci. At the same time, I also hear a lot of purity to the music despite some dissonance in the composition. I really enjoy listening to Berio, and Kim's playing is at her best I think at this recording. I've often heard her playing criticized as too manufactured and not taking enough liberties, but regardless of what you think of her playing on perhaps Bartok or Brahms, her recording of Berio evokes excitement and beauty. I reccomend this recording!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenomenal -- Kashkashian superbly realizes Berio's synthesis of folk music and modernism July 28 2002
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
This album is incredible on all levels, a startling accomplishment! This is the first Berio I've heard, and I could not be more impressed. "Voci" and "Naturale" are both 1980s compositions featuring traditional Sicilian folk melodies. "Voci" features viola and orchestra, while "Naturale" features viola, percussion, and a tape recording of a Sicilian folk singer.

One of the brilliant aspects of this ECM disc is that in between the two Berio pieces are five field recordings of the Sicilian folk songs that are used in those pieces! An irony of "Voci" is that there are no vocals -- the melodies taken from the vocals of the folk songs are woven into the complex composition. The sound quality is superb, and the mesh of Berio's modernism with the folk music is beyond words. It reminds me of the way in which the free jazz of Ornette Coleman linked back to elements of pre-swing jazz, with its polytonal collective improvisation. In a similar way, the rough, bent notes of the folk songs loop and connect with Berio's post-tonality.

Kim Kashkashian is tremendous! Her viola is front and center through both compositions, a stunning showcase for her playing. I hope Berio's modernism will not be a deterrent for anyone who appreciates virtuosic performance -- in fact I hope if you do, you might have your ears opened to something beyond the standard repertoire!

The ECM package goes beyond any high standard you might expect -- a booklet with gorgeous black and white photos of Sicily and a long essay by Jurg Stenzl is included with the jewel case in a box.

This disc is truly a triumph for all involved!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moving viola writing, but lame orchestration Oct. 28 2009
By Christopher Culver - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I'm a bit surprised to see other reviews here, because I've thought that Luciano Berio's music of the 1980s has fallen into obscurity compared to his music of the two decades prior. In any event, this ECM release highlighting the violist Kim Kashkarian does make a very elegant presentation of two pieces from this era, the Italian composer's "Voci" and "Naturale" along with selections from an ethnographic collection of Sicilian folk music which so inspired Berio.

"Voci" for viola and concerto (1984) is a concerto where the sololist continually maintains a cantabile line against sparse orchestral accompaniment. The orchestra, here the Radio Symphonieorchester Wien conducted by Dennis Russell Davies, is divided into two groups, but this doesn't really come through in recording. Upon first hearing the Sicilian folk melodies constantly turned out by the violist, I was struck by how similar they were to North African music. These ever-flowing sinuous, sensual inflections on the viola make for some of Berio's most seductive music. The role of the orchestra, however, seems weak, with so many instruments sitting on stage but no real role in shaping the work.

"Naturale" for viola, percussion and tape (1985-86) inhabits the same soundworld. The viola line is again constant folk melodies. The tape part, however, is powerful as it features recordings of the folk singer Celano. However, the percussionist (here Robyn Schulkowsky) has a very background role, contributing almost nothing. Sure, the percussionist plays a marimba line or bangs a drum a few times, but this part could be left out entirely with no impact on the piece. This ought to have been a simple duet for viola and tape.

Again, while the viola music here is lovely, the weak writing for the violist's partners makes this less essential Berio. After hearing these pieces, I'm usually in a mood to hear one of the composer's pieces of powerful orchestration like the Chemins cycle or "Formazioni".
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Berio's Obsession with Folksongs July 26 2010
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Luciano Berio is certainly not the first composer whose output is heavily influence by his obsession with folk songs: Mahler used folk songs frequently as the basis for both song cycles and symphonic themes, Bartok codified Hungarian folk music as did Kodaly, Canteloube's fame rests on his songs from the Auvergne region, etc. In this recording titled VOCI Dennis Russell Davies conducts the Vienna Radio Orchestra in instrumental works titled Voci, for viola and 2 instrumental groups with the astonishingly fine violist Kim Kashkashian as soloist. These opening works seemed misplaced on the recording for this listener. After the orchestral works are performed the mid portion of the CD is devoted to five Sicilian folksongs sung as though from a mountain top stance and resembling more the muezzin chants and calls to prayer than the sounds one would expect from a lonely shepherd! It would seem more listener-appropriate to place these songs first on the CD.

But these are the seeds from which the other works here are derived. Far more successful is the set of variations 'Naturale, for viola, marimba, tam-tam & tape' that close this survey. Here the derivation of songs is more related to the singing we have just heard and make far more musical sense than the original 'Voci'. But Berio is an acquired taste: getting to appreciate his music takes work on the part of the listener, work that is only at times rewarded with memorable compositions. Grady Harp, July 10
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