The Norwegian Soloists' Choir receives Diapason d’Or de l’Année

Read Diapason's review of the album Luciano Berio: Coro and Cries of London here

Both the first work, for voices and instruments, as well as the second, for eight a cappella voices, are recorded with remarkable precision.

An homage to the great polyphonic Berio of the mid 1970s. In these two very different works, Berio’s superlative art conveys popular sources and the sounds of the street. On disc, Coro (1974-1976) has a rich radiophonic history, particularly German, with the commission of the score by the WDR Cologne, the founding recording (DG) and the full premiere in Salzburg by the Austrian ORF (Orfeo), later followed by the chorus of the Bayerischer Rundfunk joining forces with the orchestra of the Hessischer Rundfunk (Col Legno).

Grete Pedersen, who for this recording also conducts a radio orchestra - the Norwegian NRK, in no way fades in the company of the existing discography, and her Norwegian Soloists Choir excels in bringing instrumental colours to their singing.

This is exactly what Berio called for: by dispersing the 40 member choir among the orchestra of a little more than 40 players, he wanted to weave together striking connections and play with the boundaries between the vocal and instrumental but also the learned and the popular, the individual and the collective. With his eye on German lied as well as African heterophonies, taking fragments of Amerindian, Polynesian, Hebrew and Venitian love, work and of revolt songs, using Pablo Neruda’s disquieting verse “Venid a ver la sangre for las calles” (Come see the blood in the streets) like a distorted refrain, Berio composed, according to his words, an “anthology of the diverse manners to put something to music”.

Grete Pedersen may not give the slightly dirty and contorted face to these “musical figures that are drawn like graffiti on the harmonic wall of the city” (Berio again) that others may expect, but the clear colour of her characters is radiantly beautiful.

This repertoire requires a choir that can mutate to and from a group of soloists, and the Norwegian Soloist Choir doesn’t need to alter its nature to bend to the madrigalesque demands of the Cries of London, resuscitating ad libitum the ghosts of the street vendors of old London.

With a purity in their emission, they accomplish what the Swingle II (formerly the Swingle Singers) (Decca) could not as they lend themselves to the “exercise of characterisation and musical dramatisation” that Berio desired. The chiseled, biting, rhythmic and dynamic control are vertiginous. Though improbable on paper, this coupling of Coro/Cries proves to be particularly exultant in its realisation.

Feel free to listen or buy the record here.

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