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2.4.04

Love for Sale: Tribute to Luciano Berio

In a post on January 24 (Renzo Piano on Luciano Berio), I wrote about the Paris premiere of Italian serial composer Luciano Berio's last piece, Stanze, completed two weeks before his death (May 28, 2003). The void left from Berio's death continues to be felt in experimental music circles: in London, Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Academy of Music (with support from the Italian Cultural Institute and the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung) are jointly presenting a series of events as a tribute to Berio, called Omaggio, from April 15 to 30.

In a series of short interviews ('I wanted to murder him', April 2) in The Guardian, Charlotte Higgins presents commentary by several people who worked closely with Berio about their memories of him: composers John Woolrich, Louis Andriessen, Steve Reich, Will Gregory, and Martin Butler, conductor Semyon Bychkov, opera director Graham Vick, pianist Marielle Labèque, and architect Renzo Piano. Butler's comments on his personality are particularly amusing:

In 1982, I was one of 12 composers to spend two months studying with him at Tanglewood summer school in the US. He used to have amazing soirées where we would get together and perform all his favorite show tunes. He loved making a sleazy nightclub atmosphere: an excuse for expensive cigars and a lot of red wine. In fact his favorite song was Love for Sale, which he loved above Mozart and Beethoven.
Berio's great strength, according to Bychkov, is one that more modernist composers would do well to emulate: he composed music and changed the rules about how to do that, "without burning the bridges to the past—which makes him important to a wide spectrum of people. He could talk about music on the highest intellectual level without losing his audience: there was always a connection to life, and one never felt excluded."

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