My copy is in a cellophane sleeve with a sticker £2.99 from Festival Records. As I don't remember any shop called Festival Records, I'm guessing I bought it at the Southbank Centre in 1985 around the same time as my other Berio record. Here are the sleeve notes, almost in full, with my annotations.
Luciana Berio was born on 24 October 1925 at Onegia in Italy and received his first musical training at the Milan conservatoire… Berio is one of the leading figures in the generation of composers born in the 1920's, like Boulez (b. 1925) and Stockhausen (b. 1928). [My dad's generation. Anyone more culturally removed from Berio, Boulez and Stockhausen, it would be hard to imagine.]
One of the keys to an approach to Berio's music would be to regard it as a musical art that is both free and instinctive [the instrumentation is almost jazzy, making a kind of classical-jazz crossover — I think the album in my collection that sounds closest to Berio must be the big-band-improv of Feetpackets] — provided one guards against the mistake of romanticizing what is in fact, no more than a formula [punctuation as in the original]. However rational analytical procedure or conscious the organization and concept of detail in his work might be, Berio never allows himself to be caught in the vice of a calculating intellectualism [I'm pretty sure these notes were written in French and then translated to English, so thedouble entendreof "vice" here is inspired translating]. Thanks to a progressive development, both spontaneous and cautious, intuitive and lucid, of his expressive means, Berio has, in the opinion of Henri Pousseur [a Belgian avant-garde composer, m'lud], explore and opened up original and important fields which had long been forgotten in Western culture but which have become indispensable to it. It is, however, in the field of the voice that Henri Pousseur rightly stresses Berio's achievement: the domain of a verbal expression — which is also infrasemantic: immediately emotive or descriptive in the manner of onomatopeia — with which the music is directly concerned, and of the breathing on which it is founded. Berio's two-fold affinities with both the most resolute currents in modern art and consequently, with the whole range of contemporary thinking and sensibility, and with the less repressible features of the Italian nature and culture [yes, those explanations of "tutti, tutti" are so irrepressibly Italian that they're almost onomatopeic], have born their best fruit in this field. While Berio is a past master of bel canto, he has also succeeded in discovering sounds, phrasings, effects of all kinds which have permitted him to venture further and further into areas which had so far been thought impermissible or impossible for the human voice. These investigations in the domain of the voice which appear in full force in the virtuouso pieces for soloists [which reminds me: I've never properly listened to any of Cathy Berberian's performances of Berio — must do], are magisterially reflected i the larger works and particularly in Laborintus II. The range of Berio's ideas, his way of employing both familiar and unusual gestures in entirely new contexts, as well as his concept of music as theatre, are brilliantly illustrated in this work, composed between 1963 and 1965 [when I was busy being born]. It was commissioned by the O.R.T.F (French Radio and Television Corporation) on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the birth of Dante.
Laborintus is the title of a collection of poems by Edoardo Sanguinetti, and Laborintus II prolongs this work by taking it as an element in a larger composition, performed by three voices, seventeen instruments, chorus, speaker and tape-recorder. Berio comments as follows on his piece: "The text of Laborintus II develops certain themes of Dante's Vita Nuova, Convivio and Divine Comedy, and combines them — principally by formal and semantic analogies — with Biblical texts and the writings of Eliot, Ezra Pound and Sanguinetti himself, who is the speaker in this recording [This is a very similar formula toA-Ronne, the other Berio piece I have]. The main formal reference is the catalogue — in the mediaeval sense of the word, like the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville [Saint Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636 CE) was the first Christian writer to essay the task of compiling for his co-religionists a summa of universal knowledge, in the form of his most important work, the Etymologiae (taking its title from the method he uncritically used in the transcription of his era's knowledge)], for example, which also appear in the Laborintus II — which relates to the Dantesque themes of memory and usury; in other words, the reduction of all things to a unity of values. Isolated words and sentences should sometimes be taken as they stand, but at other times are to be heard as a part of the sound structure conceived as a whole. The principle of the catalogue is not limited to the text alone but, on the contrary, serves as the foundation of the musical structure itself".
Looked at from a certain angle, Laborintus II is a catalogue of references to — not quotations from — Monteverdi, Stravinsky and others. The instrumental sections develop, on the whole, as an extension of the vocal action of the singers, and the brief sequence of electronic music is intended as a prolongation of the instrumental element.
Laborintus II is a stage work and can be treated as a rapprresentazione, as a story, an allegory, a document, a dance, etc. It can be performed in a theatre, on television, in the open air or in any other place permitting an audience to assemble. Wherever Laborintus II has been performed it has been hailed by the critics as a musical event of the highest significance. The present recording is an attempt at a restitution not only of the magnificence of the work itself, but also of the profound or jubilant enthusiasm which reigned during the recording sessions in the Davout studio in Paris. [Ah, they were probably tired hacks cranking out another record — though this evidently remains the definitive recording, possibly because it's the only one.]
|Buy this vinyl release via Discogs.com||
MusicBrainz entry for this album
Wikipedia entry for this album
Rate Your Music entry for this album
Some metadata about this album at Last.fm