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Please see this PDF for notes from the curator on each of the tracks below.
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All notes, where not otherwise indicated, are by the curator.
Henri Pousseur: Rossignoletdu Bois (2:03)
Contact: Marianne Pousseur. Email: <email@example.com>. Web: <www.khroma.eu>.
Henri Pousseur—voice and harmonium
Rossignolet du bois (Nightingale of the Woods) is an Occitanie folk tune from the thirteenth century that was repopularized in 1938 by the French publication of a collection of similar songs. It enjoyed a renewed success in 1964 when Luciano Berio arranged—or, better, recomposed—it for a small instrumental group, along with 10 other traditional songs from around the world. Berio wrote of this composition that he had “always sensed a profound uneasiness while listening to popular songs performed with piano accompaniment” [ 1 ] and that this was one of the reasons why, in 1964, he wrote the Folk Songs, also intended as “a tribute to the artistry and the vocal intelligence of Cathy Berberian” . Berio continues:
This work exists in two versions: one for voice and seven players (flute/piccolo, clarinet, two percussions, harp, viola, cello), the other for voice and chamber orchestra (1973). It is an anthology of eleven folk songs of various origins (United States, Armenia, France, Sicily, Sardinia, etc.), chosen from old records, printed anthologies, or heard sung from folk musicians and friends.
A peculiar aspect of Berberian’s memorable performance is that, on most of the pieces, she modeled her vocal style on that of the original performers appearing on the recordings that had inspired Berio to compose the cycle. One of these sources was Henri Pousseur, who, at the request of his fellow composer and friend, had sent a set of French folk tunes that he sang, accompanying himself on the harmonium—among them Rossignolet du bois, which, some years after the Folk Songs, resurfaced in another composition by Berio, Questo vuol dire che (1968). A further incarnation of the piece was Rossignolade (2003), by Pousseur himself, a piece for voice and clarinet that the Belgian composer dedicated, closing the circle, to the memory of his friends Luciano and Cathy. The “original” version was indeed published in Italy on a 10" LP attached to an installment of a serial publication, curated by ethnomusicologist Roberto Leydi, who also was a friend and collaborator of Berio.
Years later, in 1972, we can find Luciano Berio himself in a similar setting, at the piano singing a Sicilian folk tune, E si fussi pisci (And if I were a fish). One of his early efforts, made in 1948 when the composer was 23 years old, was an arrangement of two Sicilian folk tunes (Due canti siciliani), one of which is E si fussi pisci. This tune was, and remained, one of Berio’s favorite folk songs. It resurfaced more than 30 years later in at least three original compositions: an impromptu transcription for solo viola, dedicated as a private homage to his friend Aldo Bennici, which was subsequently incorporated in the Duetti for two violins, of 1981—it is duet #24—also dedicated to Bennici. But again, in 2002, Berio made another version, this time for 4-part choir, as a dedication to another of his close friends, Umberto Eco, for the day of an honorary doctor ceremony .
• Henri Pousseur: Rossignolet du bois (1959) 2:03 (.mp3 4 MB)
• Henri Pousseur: Rossignolet du bois (1959) 2:03 (.m4a 10 MB))
• Henri Pousseur: Rossignolet du bois (1959) 2:03 (.wav 21 MB)
References and Notes
1. Luciano Berio, “Folk Songs (author’s...