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Review: Seattle Symphony gives Berio’s ‘Sinfonia’ a charming, haunted performance

31st October, 2018

Luciano Berio’s 1968 orchestral masterpiece “Sinfonia” has never lost its power to amaze, but this formidable new recording by the Seattle Symphony also demonstrates the work’s perennial ability to charm. The remarkable layering effects in Berio’s score – intricately rendered orchestral textures shot through with a variety of choral and verbal gems – come through here with wonderful clarity, and yet there’s still an air of elegiac mystery surrounding the piece. This is most evident in the great third movement, which overlays a verbal pastiche on top of the scherzo from Mahler’s Second Symphony; conductor Ludovic Morlot and the orchestra, together with the new-music vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, give it a reading that is both peppy and slightly haunted. In a brilliant programming coup, “Sinfonia” is paired with Boulez’s “Notations I-IV,” in a performance that emphasizes the glittery directness of the composer’s potentially abstruse modernism – and the dark, turbulent fantasy of Ravel’s “La Valse.”

 

31 October 2018
Joshua Kosman / San Francisco Chronicle