All of those who studied the 50 Set Works on the London board for A-Level music came across Berio's Sinfonia. The
A-Level Music course was, for me, a bit of a crash course in music history; I knew very little. I could find requested chords in scores within seconds, I could knock out a fancy chorale. My understanding of harmony and theory was there but I lacked the background knowledge of the repertoire, the canon.
The piece therefore was a bit lost on me. I liked what I was told about it, I liked what I saw and I was attracted to the fact that it seemed a challenge to understand, but I certainly didn't 'get it'. I don't fully now, but I've been privileged to sit within it 12 times now so I'm getting there. It's like Mary Poppin's handbag with its endless fruits -- it just keeps giving you things to understand and to discover.
John Axelrod (Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai, Turin x 2)
Ingo Metzmacher (La Scala, Milan x 3)
Edo de Waart (Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra x 2)
Marin Alsop (Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra - Brazil x 3, Royal Festival Hall London x 1)
Nicola Marasco (La Fenice, Venice x 1)
The piece was written for the Swingle Singers in 1967 and the knowledge of the typos in the scores, what Berio meant, how it should be performed, what the markings mean, the best way to be conducted for different passages, has been passed down through the group as individuals have left and others joined. Jo Goldsmith Eteson, who has done it 35 times or more, must have the most knowledge in her head at present (I don't think the others will mind me saying that!) and effortlessly does the scarily exposed aria-introduction to movement five. Legend.
The Holst Singers went to Norway a couple of weeks ago, to perform John Tavener's The Veil of the Temple in Trondheim. It was a joy to join our conductor Stephen Layton as he conducted us (with a few Trinity Cambridgers), Det Norske Solistkor, the Nidaros Cathedral Choir and Cathedral Girls Choir, alongside Patricia Rozario (Soprano) and a host of amazing musicians, in the Scandinavian premiere. The piece started at about 22.30 and finished at about 6.00am. Music came from all different positions within the building, and the audience were submerged in a truly spiritual experience. I find it tiring to sing even short Tavener motets, so our 'slot' from 01.00 to the end was quite a demanding five hours, but we were journeying towards the light of a new day, and maybe the best journeys aren't always the easiest. Pictures can be seen by clicking the photo above and, if you want to know more about the piece, Stephen's website has a good page about it, so do read on!