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Berio and composer-conductor Bruno Maderna were close friends; Berio always emphasised how much he could have learned from Maderna, five years his senior. Calmo is an elegy for him; it is wreathed in references to his friend - alone the choice of lyrics relates to Maderna (Berio set poems which his friend once used). The mezzo-soprano sings for long stretches without interruption, as if she were crying her lament to heaven, lending the piece an atmosphere of a dramatic scene from Greek tragedy – a moving testimony to the loss Berio suffered when Maderna died.