Album Review

Luigi Nono “Voices of Protest” [Mode Records] (cd)

cujo   7/5/2005   A Library

Once in a while a protest poem, this time from communist/anti-fascist resistance fighter/lawyer Luigi Nono (1924-1990), the leading avant-garde Italian of his time. He spent the 50s in Darmstadt experimenting with the avant-garde elite; the result was a lifelong interest in electronic and aleatoric music which he applied to highly political music. This CD is one major late 60s composition and two remarkable filler pieces. Factoid: Nono married Schoenberg’s daughter.
Tr 1. A floresta – jovem e cheja de vida (40:28): ‘The Forest Is Young and Full of Life?. This is the 2nd commercial recording of this sensory whopper for soprano, three narrators, clarinet, copper gongs, and tape. The text is a collage of fragments by guerrilla fighters, communist leaders, famously executed South Vietnamese, Berkeley students, factory workers, committees, etc. The overall work is a slightly bleak landscape of musical electronics, explored by the clarinet and soprano. Let’s go on a tour: slow beginning featuring tape, leads to serene passage starting around ~8:00 which lasts until a huge gong climax around ~12:20, text on tape leads until ~26:00 when the soprano sings brilliantly, things wind down with more great voice writing leading to a climax at ~33:00 then thing wind down from there. For an interesting comnparison, check out the original (Nono-overseen) 1979 DG recording featuring badass clarinetting by Bill Smith (SJPL has it).
Tr. 2. ‘Donde estas hermano? (5:19): A short chorus adapted in 1986 from an earlier opera, this time scored for 2 sopranos, a mezzo, a contralto. Otherworldly sounds emanate, but there is no electronic altering here, this is just brilliant singing by Voxnova.
Tr. 3. Djamila Boupach? (4:53): A solo soprano aria (from a larger work) to an anti-war poem by Pacheco. More brilliant singing by the Voxnova soloist, featuring huge pitch leaps and dynamic range.
-Cujo, Jan 2005

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