Cathy Berberian was an extraordinary figure in twentieth-century music. Although she could sing a range of repertoire, the soprano was best known for her interpretations of avant-garde music, as well as being a composer in her own right. She was married to composer Luciano Berio and their collaborations, both during and after the end of their marriage, inspired some of his most celebrated compositions, such as Sequenza III for Woman’s Voice (1965) and Recital I (for Cathy) (1972). The thirtieth anniversary of her death this year is commemorated in my concert of the week: Loré Lixenberg – Cathy Berberian (Thu Oct 31st, 1:15pm, Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, St Hilda’s College). Mezzo-Soprano Loré Lixenberg, another singer renowned for her interpretation of contemporary music, will survey the repertoire for which Berberian was known, from Monteverdi to unusual arrangements of songs by The Beatles. Entrance to this fascinating lunchtime recital is free of charge.
Like that of his rough contemporaries Berio and Berberian, the music of Steve Reich also draws on the idea of musical collage, particularly in his use of recorded sound (as, famously, in his 1965 composition It’s Gonna Rain). These techniques are evident in his Different Trains (1988) for string quartet and tape player which will be heard at the Holywell Music Room this week: Cavaleri Quartet – Haydn, Britten, Birman & Reich (Weds 30th, 8pm, Holywell Music Room). Different Trains uses recordings of interviews to juxtapose the experiences of those who survived the horrific trains of the holocaust with the contemporary experience of train travel in America during World War II, whilst the quartet picks out and develops “musical” phrases from the speech of the interviewees. This will be complemented by music by staples of the quartet repertoire by Haydn and Britten and new music by young Latvian composer Eugene Birman. This concert continues the Cavaleri Quartet’s residency at Oxford University’s Faculty of Music.
The eighteenth-century operatic tradition of pasticcio – a kind of musical collage bringing in disparate elements, quite possibly by different composers, to form a new whole – is one that resonates with the post-modern compositional practices of Berio and Reich. Isle of Noise‘s production Handel Furioso (Thurs 31st, 8pm, Sheldonian Theatre) draws on this link to recast the music of Handel in a fresh setting. Arias and duets from a range of Handel operas are brought together to tell a love story moving all the way from childhood to old age. This promises to be a thought-provoking and highly entertaining production that forms part of Isle of Noise‘s project to “encourage a broader definition of opera, experimenting freely with a vast repertoire to create new narratives and an alternative way of experiencing the art form.”