Berio Rendering; Brahms Clarinet Sonata No. 1; Mahler Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit
Renderings of Rendering (by Chailly and Eschenbach, among others) have emphasised the dislocation and distance between Schubert and Berio. Unfamiliarity with the original material on the part of orchestras, at least, has perhaps caused Schubert to appear at his most beery and Biedermeier, and modernist anxiety, lengthened by hindsight, has exaggerated the Mahlerian shadows over the original fragments. This is much more congenial. The basic tempi are quicker, the Bergen Philharmonic is lighter on its feet, Gardner’s phrasing of the central movement a cousin to Brian Newbould’s completion, and thus Rendering’s periodic, unpredictable descent into twilit oblivion becomes all the more touching, and may remind us of ‘the sincerity’ with which Berio approached ‘my love letter to Schubert’.
The other two works may seem more straightforward in conception and intention, notwithstanding Berio’s own introductions to the first two movements of the Brahms sonata. I can’t really hear what he achieves here, or indeed why the transcription needed making at all other than as a private homage, and not at any rate on a scale that must have given the balance engineer a headache. Is it with irony or affection that his idea of a Romantic orchestra seems to grow from the inner movements of Mahler’s Ninth, heavy with low wind and emphatic first-beat drum-strokes? Mahler’s little ‘Hans und Grete’ waltzes straight into Act 2 of Der Rosenkavalier, and while Berio channels the Wunderhorn orchestration of the Second Symphony in ‘Frühlingsmorgen’, an alien, Straussian haze is never far away. Leaving balance issues to the engineers, Roderick Williams takes a relaxed, confiding approach, never less than suave even against the galloping rhythms of ‘Scheiden und Meiden’.