Chamber Music
I. Strings in the Earth and Air (3:50)
II. Monotone (2:03)
III. Winds of May (1:24)

Luciano Berio's Chamber Music
Chamber Music for Mezzo-Soprano, Clarinet, Cello, & Harp (after James Joyce) is an early song cycle, written in 1953 for the voice of Berio's wife, Cathy Berberian. It takes three of Joyce's Chamber Music poems (I, XXXV and IX) and sets them to music.


I. Strings in the Earth and Air (Chamber Music I)

Strings in the earth and air
Make music sweet;
Strings by the river where
The willows meet.

There's music along the river
For Love wanders there,
Pale flowers on his mantle,
Dark leaves on his hair.

All softly playing,
With head to music bent,
And fingers straying
Upon an instrument.

II. Monotone (Chamber Music XXXV)

All day I hear the noise of waters
Making moan,
Sad as the seabird is, when going
Forth alone
He hears the winds cry to the waters'

The grey winds, the cold winds are blowing
Where I go.
I hear the noise of waters
Far below.
All day, all night, I hear them flowing
To and fro.

III. Winds of May (Chamber Music IX)

Winds of May, that dance on the sea,
Dancing a ring-around in glee
From furrow to furrow, while overhead
The foam flies up to be garlanded,
In silvery arches spanning the air,
Saw you my true love anywhere?
Welladay! Welladay!
For the winds of May!
Love is unhappy when love is away!

Liner notes from the Dynamic CD

Liner notes written by Mario Balma:
The record opens with Chamber Music (1953), a delightful piece for chamber ensemble and one of the first compositions Luciano Berio wrote for cathy Berberian's multicoloured vocal means. The texts are three poems by James Joyce, whom Berio was at that time first approaching. As the composer himself declared, the model is the vocality of Dallapiccola, which inspires the first lyric, Strings in the Earth and Air, accompanied by stressed, meditative notes of the harp. The second lyric, Monotone, definitely sponges out, perfectly coherent with its title, any melodic character in the singing process which, for quite a long while, keeps bended to a sole note. The third title, Winds of May, marked by agile, floreate movements, pleasantly clashes with the "flatness" of the previous lyric and reveals a peculiar treatment of the voice.

CD Information

I am aware of four versions of Berio's Chamber Music on CD:

1. "Chamber Music" -- Jecklin-Disco JD 684-2 CD [DDD]. I believe this may have been deleted.
2. "Chamber Music" -- (1970) Philips 6500-631. Performed by Cathy Berberian and the Julliard Enemble, and matched with Berio's Differences, Sequenzas III and VII, and Due pezzi.
3. "Berio: The Great Works for Voice" -- (1995) Mode #48. Performed by Christine Schadeberg and matched with a whole host of Berio songs and vocal excerpts.
4. "Maderna/Berio" -- (1996) Dynamic CDS 174 [DDD]. Sung by Marco Lazzara. It is joined by two other works from Berio, Linea and Sequenza VIII for solo violin; and three works by Berio's late contemporary, Bruno Maderna. This is the version I own.
You may listen to sound samples and/or purchase Luciano Berio CDs online from below:

Berio: The Great Works for Voice / Christine Schadeberg (Mode)
$14.99; Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1995

Maderna/Berio / New Music Studium Production (Dynamic)
$14.99: Luciano Berio(Composer), et al / Audio CD / Released 1997

More Berio

Thema (Omaggio a Joyce) -- (1958) An electronic transformation of the opening text from the "Sirens" episode of Ulysses, as read by Cathy Berberian.

Epifanie -- (1961) A vocal setting of five literay texts, including a passage form Portrait.

Berio and Beckett -- This is the Luciano Berio page at Apmonia, which details his Beckettian composition Sinfonia.

--Allen B. Ruch
1 June 2003
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