Our first concert is just around the bend (Saturday at 7:30, if you're keeping track), and I couldn't be more excited. The lovely and talented duo of Kirsti Petraborg and Valerie Little will be joining me in a very diverse program--Berio and Bach and Spisak oh my! But seriously, it is going to be fantastic. Now that I am writing about it, I realize that it was Valerie and Kirsti who first planted the idea of a concert of viola duos in my mind. As part of their DMA recital requirements, they performed a concert comprised entirely of viola duets, and let me tell you, it was great. I never knew how good viola duos could sound. Make your jokes if you must (believe me, I've been making them all week), but be prepared to renege.
The duet repertoire has always interested me, likely due to its history in the salon (Mozart, for example), the studio (Bartok and Telemann) and finally the concert hall (more recent contributions by composers like Luigi Nono and James Dillon). The Berio duo Valerie and I are playing (Bruno) could be categorized as a "pedagogical" duet: potentially meant for teacher and student. Musically speaking, it offers a glimpse into Berio's musico-rhetorical language. Brief though it may be (a mere 1’45”), the music betrays both a love of folk idioms and an influence from the twentieth century European modernist milieu from which the composer emerged. This kind of duality is expressed in Berio’s use a nineteenth century form (the waltz) dressed in Darmstadt-ian garb. Further aligning himself with the Second Viennese School (the progenitor of his "European modernist milieu"), Berio’s dance quotations are akin to those of Mahler and Schoenberg. Within these allusions, another hallmark of Berio's aesthetic is evidenced: there is a certain sadness--the ennui associated with nostalgia.
Berio's complete oeuvre is wonderful, he is without a doubt one of my favorite composers. Indeed, I am drawn to the aforesaid duality, but there is something about his music that so perfectly captures the mid-late twentieth century spirit. To me, he expresses the fear, ennui and uncertainty of our epoch with an aesthetic both elegant and sincere.
Cathy Berberian sings Berio, Folksongs