Notes and Editorial Reviews
Several years ago Luciano Berio gave a lecture in London about his new work written as Homage to Dante, using T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound as well as Dante, not to mention the Swingle Singers (then only known for their jazzy Bach vocalizing) and electronic sounds on tape. Then the whole work was performed in April 1970 in London, later on BBC radio. It is the Labor intus 2 recorded here. Parts of it still sound new to me, though it is all highly characteristic of Berio, even the quick jazzy music in the fourth of these five movements (they last 34' 30"—we could have endured a fill-up for this price).
Available time didn't enable me to get a score. Parts of this Laborintus are palimpsested, layer upon layer in the
well-known Berio manner; but the music is very direct and communicative, even if you don't understand Italian—I hope text and translation will be supplied. Raiding shamelessly from Bernard Rands's note for the London premiere I can say that the first movement is about Dante's youth; it is harmonious and dramatic with strongly built climaxes and points of repose, when harp and woodwind are eloquently brought forward. A brilliant quick section follows, very florid and virtuosic and hectic; few intelligible words here but much excitement. The narrator, who is the poet responsible for anthologising the text and writing some himself, speaks this part, attractively and clearly as well as musically, though his English is less intelligible than his French. The London premiere had a female speaker (Cathy Berberian, no less) but with female singers a male speaking voice, as here, gives a tidier balance. In the third section usurers in hell are vividly and jazzily depicted; this section ends Side 1 with much laughter and French conversation. The taped sounds come forward in the fourth section which is exciting and agitated ; the electronics sound low-fi and distorted and unhelpful—it is a joy to hear a convincing flute tone emerge! The final section proposes expansive, slow, heady harmonies and a whispered lullaby, as well as Dante on music.
The above won't tell you how sensuously beautiful and physically exciting Laborintus 2 is, nor how cogently and ravishingly these Swingle ladies sing. The recorded sound is sometimes boxy or cramped but if you have ever enjoyed Berio's music, even if you are Italophile by musical inclination, this should strike home, by genuineness, if nothing else.
-- Gramophone [11/1971]
reviewing the original LP release
Works on This Recording
Laborintus no 2 by Luciano Berio
Janette Baucomont (Soprano),
Claudine Meunier (Alto),
Edoardo Sanguineti (Spoken Vocals),
Christiane Legrand (Soprano)
Musique Vivante Ensemble,
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1965; USA
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