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El mar al mar is an early setting of a poem by the Spaniard Rafael Alberti; Berio reworked it 17 years later for flute, two clarinets, chromatic accordion, harp, cello and contrabass. Although the piece consists of three verse-settings, two parts can be characteristically differentiated: a lyrical movement of beguiling beauty, in which the soloists’ sustained notes seem to anticipate Birtwistle’s vocal style, and a fast, frolicsome movement featuring a prominent part for the accordion.
Translation © 2012 by Grant Chorley