Berio Folk Songs

KLP171003-_D850281Yesterday’s lunchtime concert in the RBA featured members of the Esprit Orchestra and Krisztina Szabó.  Two instrumental pieces kicked things off.  There was an Andrew Staniland composition for snare drum and electronics; Orion Constellation Theory, played by Ryan Scott.  This was quite witty and inventive.  Very Staniland in fact.  Then came a three movement work for solo harp; Alexina Louie’s From the Eastern Gate played by Sanya Eng.  For two movements it was light and bright using mainly the upper end of the harp’s range.  It was engagingly tuneful too though not in any kind of conventionally tonal way.  The third movement was darker, louder and more dramatic, brooding even, and using a far wider range of the instrument’s capabilities.  All up, an interesting piece.

The main event was Krisztina with the Berio Folk Songs accompanied by a seven piece ensemble conducted by Alex Pauk.  It’s an interesting work.  It sets eleven songs in a range of languages and national styles.  The vocal line is pretty much the straightforward folk version exemplified by the simple strophic form of I or the dance rhythms of Lo fiolaire.  The accompaniments are something else.  Here Berio uses the whole range of colours, tonalities and techniques of his small band with a wide range of textures from a spare line for a single instrument to dense ensemble work of considerable tonal complexity and heavy on the percussion.  There’s a bit of a sense of two works in parallel rather than being fully integrated.  Krisztina did a real nice job of presenting the songs as intended with a clear and direct presentation redolent of the folk idiom without overdoing it; above the instrumental fray perhaps?  Meanwhile the virtuosic group of instrumentalists got to grips very effectively with their parts.  I’d only heard this work before in piano accompaniment which rather, I think, defeats the point.  I should like to hear the full version again and further explore the relationship between the songs and the accompaniments.  Fascinating and worthwhile stuff.

Photo credit – Kevin Lloyd.

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