BERIO Sequenza VIII RUO Violin Concerto No 1
It’s an attractive idea to programme companion pieces for Berio’s violin Sequenza and its Chemins-like reworking, Corale. Huang Ruo’s two works were written some 40 years later (the composer was born in the year Berio’s Sequenza was written) and in the opposite order, in that the Four Fragments distil materials from his earlier Violin Concerto No 1, subtitled Omnipresence. All four works feature as soloist David Bowlin, who gives a convincing account of the Berio Sequenza. His tone in Corale is more lyrical than Irvine Arditti’s account with the Moscow Philharmonic for BIS. That said, the sound quality of the ensemble is more nuanced, the formal trajectory more readily grasped and the finer gradations of Berio’s string textures more convincingly rendered under Jonathan Nott’s direction.
Concerns over the sound quality obtrude to a greater extent in the longest piece on this recording, the concerto. This, however, is attributable as much to orchestration, I suspect, as to the work of the sound engineers. The composer’s references to Chinese idioms and aesthetics don’t amount to crossover but, whatever the influences in play, the result feels unresolved both stylistically and formally. The same must be said of the soloist’s material, much of which treads over-familiar paths while offering few fresh perspectives (the reliance on open fifths being a case in point). The Four Fragments are more convincingly managed, because more concise.