Monday, July 16, 2007

Prom 4: Berio/Rossini (Radio3)

Now that the new taste fascists have taken Modernism as their whipping boy, I worry that there will be a comprehensive purge of large swathes of musical history between roughly 1910 and 1980. Now of course there's an awful lot of modernist rubbish that deserves to be forgotten, but there's a lot of rubbish in any era that deserves to be forgotten, and it would be a terrible shame if some very fine composers were to be buried purely due to their use of a style that is now outdated. Berio is one such composer, and his Sinfonia, which forms the first half of tonight's prom, is a case in point, a highpoint of Modernist music (and indeed Post-Modernist) whose glowing textures and warm wit speak of a humanity that current received wisdom would deny could be present in this sort of music, as well as a determination to say something that is certainly becoming rarer. I wonder how much one could get out of it if one did not get the various references and quotations that it contains (in particular the extensive "commentary" on the scherzo of Mahler's Second Symphony), whether it's enough to hear the surreal clash of the tonal and non-tonal. But this isn't something I can answer, although it seems Berio takes for granted in this a certain level of musical knowledge that you simply couldn't assume these days if you were aiming at anything beyond a vanishingly small group of people. Will this, rather than any stylistic fashion, be the death of this piece? I can only hope not, because it's a wonderful experience, and it's ably performed here by the Swingle Singers and the Chorus and Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, Rome under conductor Antonio Pappano.

The second half was an Italian classic from an earlier age, Rossini's Stabat Mater. This is one of those pieces I never enjoy as much as I think I'm going to, and so proved the case here, although the players did a very fine job and there were many lovely things on the way.


Lucia said...

I heard bits of the Berio. Having never heard it before, and not getting any references whatsoever (as I'm just pretending to know about music), I thought it sounded arresting and, well, funky..... (insert cringe face here).

petemaskreplica said...

Heh, whenever I hear a lot of these supposedly "dificult" pieces from the 50s and 60s I'm often struck by how approachable they are. it's just they've had a bad press, I guess.

And don't worry, everyone is pretending to know about music ;)