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Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
Naturale, su melodie siciliane (1985)

Ma première rencontre avec Luciano Berio remonte à 1984, autour de la It was 1984 when I first met Luciano Berio, about the Sequenza VI and Folk Songs. What a gap, I thought, between the frenzied virtuosity of the former, a challenge to the whole history of the viola, and the almost raw use of that same instrument for the latter, a true echo to a popular voice gathered up at its roots! And still, I was in presence of two ways to express one same thought, two ways to enter an expressiveness he would teach me, all through the years, not only how to steady and develop, but also how to make it become mine, and, even more, how to combine into one very reality: the reality of an interpreter, according to the very high sense he gave to that word. To be one of the dubbed interpreters of his music, may mean to have been able to understand this function of the instrument as a medium, not as an end in itself, for it has to get itself forgotten, bright and beautiful though it might be; to understand that deeper and deeper work, appropriation and the surpassing of the musical text is the condition to make this internal voice emerge, that no one can solicit; and that, after all, by the musical medium, it is something bigger that goes through us, something unspeakable ever, eternally unreachable, a lightning feeling that goes through us, when it luckily does so, only to be given again to someone else.

Besides, the last thing Berio did for me appears today as a legacy. When, it was autumn 2001, i.e. roughly one year and a half before his untimely death, he called to offer me to learn Naturale, su melodie siciliane, and to come and play that piece in Sicily, and then to make the French premiere of it, he expressed his desire, as a composer, to get in touch again with a “natural” music thanks to this work, wishing to go beyond the traditional hiatus between "highbrow" and folk music, and by making the place of the concert itself forgotten. Then, he talked to me about the Sicilian singer he recorded himself in Palermo, about the content of these street and market songs, given to the passers-by just to sell them fruits and fishes or to tell them boastfully of the conquest of a woman, but also about the slight distance he wanted to preserve between the voice intonations he had recorded and the viola part, a part that sometimes takes up Sicilian melodies, and sometimes subverts them. As one that passes on memory, a troubadour hawking stories without hesitating to melt them to his own, that’s how his project got inscribed in me. A project that’s come to me all the more obviously than it is only one of the aspects of this particularly fertile relationship between Luciano Berio and the viola. The proximity between the instrument and the singing voice constituted my first spring of inspiration: long before Naturale, Folk songs could be considered as the beginnings of it, Voci is its unbelievable accomplishment, and may represent the most remarkable concerto for viola of the last fifty years, and certainly the one that’ll rightly find the widest audience. One can also find some striking echoes of this proximity instrument/voice in the operas, particularly the beginning of the fourth scene of Outis, this surprising dui between the solo viola and the soprano voice.

Christophe Desjardins,
text introducing the disc Voix d’alto, Aeon (AECD 0429)