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Luciano Berio: Coro

  • for 40 voices and instruments
  • 4 2 4 3 - 3 4 3 1 - perc(2), pno,, alto sax, t.sax, vln(3), vla(4), vc(4), cb(3)
  • Duration: 60’
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    3rd flute
    4th flute
    cor anglais
    clarinet in Eb
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    bass clarinet in Bb
    alto saxophone in Eb
    tenor saxophone in Bb
    1st bassoon
    2nd bassoon
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    3rd horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    3rd trumpet in C
    4th trumpet in C
    1st trombone
    2nd trombone
    3rd trombone
    bass tuba (+t.tuba(Bb))
    1th percussion
    2nd percussion
    electric organ
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    3rd violin
    1st viola
    2nd viola
    3rd viola
    4th viola
    1st violoncello
    2nd violoncello
    3rd violoncello
    4th violoncello
    1st contrabass
    2nd contrabass
    3rd contrabass
  • Choir: 10S, 10A, 10T, 10B
  • Composer: Luciano Berio
  • Text author: Pablo Neruda u. a.
  • Dedication: to Talia
  • Commission: Commisisione della Westdeutscher Rundfunk di Cologna Prima esecuzione assoluta a Donaueschingen nel 1976

Work introduction

In Coro, I returned to folk music which, in an explicit manner, had already been the basis of my Folk Songs (1964) and my Questo vuol dire che (1970). In Coro, however, there are no quotations or transformations of actual folk songs (with the exception of Episode VI where a Yugoslav melody is used and Episode XVI where I quote a melody from my Cries of London of 1974/1976) but rather, here and there, there is a development of folk techniques and modes which are combined without any reference to specific songs. It is the musical function of those techniques and modes that is continuously transformed in Coro.

There is, in addition to the folk element, a rather wide range of techniques. The general structure of the work is that of a substantial epic and narrative form made up of mostly self-contained and often contrasting episodes. The same text can occur several times with different music, or the same musical model can occur several times with different texts. Coro is also an anthology of different modes of ‘setting to music’, hence to be listened to as an ‘open project’ in the sense that it could continue to generate ever different situations and relationships. It is like the plan for an imaginary city which is realised on different levels, which produces, assembles and unifies different things and persons, revealing their collective and individual characters, their distance, their relationships and conflicts within real and ideal borders.

The specific placing of the singers and instruments on the concert podium (with a singer each sitting next to an instrumentalist) serves to enhance acoustically and visually the wide range of interaction among voices and instruments.

Of the different levels in Coro, the harmonic one is perhaps the most important; it is the work’s base but is at the same time its environment and its slowly changing landscape. A landscape, a sound base that generates ever different events (songs, heterophony, polyphony, etc), musical images engraved like graffiti on the harmonic wall of the city. The texts of Coro are set on two different and complementary levels: a folk level based on texts about love and work, and an epic level on a poem by Pablo Neruda (“Residencia en la Tierra”) which puts in perspective that very love and work.

Luciano Berio


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Donaueschingen (DE)
WDR Rundfunkorchester Köln
Luciano Berio

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