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Luciano Berio (1925-2003)
Chemins II (su Sequenza VI) (1967)

Chemins II is one of Berio’s works that Pierre Boulez loves the most, and which, by the way, he willingly conducts. No doubt indeed it combines characteristics important to him: the surpassing of usually admitted limits of virtuosity, the risk-taking, halfway between the interpreter’s absolute physical commitment and his necessary mastery of the musical development, but also a play on appearances in a work that sometimes sounds like the sum of ten concertos, and where the solo viola part is locally submerged by the nine other instruments, a play with traps too, in a work conceived as the study on the repetition of one harmonic sequence, but where those repetitions are the occasion of many a change, retrograde or incomplete presentations of the basic sequence, a whole compositional game that reveals a multi-entry piece of work. Besides, Chemins II is a work that reveals some of the ambiguities specific to the viola: its duality ancient/modern for instance, with the willingly contemporary, conquering aspect of the initial tremolo, that very slowly lets a more “classical” playing emerge, until the moving nostalgia of the final phrase, its trouble too, stemming from its medium range that predisposes its timbre to be absorbed sometimes by the instrumental group: in other words, some of the ambiguities that could fascinate such a personality as Pierre Boulez, as can be shown in pieces such as Fragments/Multiples or The Hammer without a master.

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