Berio-Mask – a ”palimpsest” for chamber ensemble
“Palimpsest” is a word originally used to designate a papyrus roll from which a text has been rubbed out and a new one written in. However, because of a special structure of the papyrus, the original inscription cannot be totally erased, and sometimes 4 or 5 different texts can be “read” simultaneously in these ancient manuscripts.
This is the compositional idea and “technique” used in Berio-Mask. The third movement of Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia (1969) can be interpreted as such a “palimpsest”, modelled as it is on a Mahler Symphony movement which itself is modelled on a Wunderhorn-Lied based on a folksong etc. In Berio-Mask this mysterious message is further elaborated. Hardly anything except the barlines is left over from Berio’s music. But almost all of his Mahler is still there.
The discourse of text and music in Berio’s composition as well as “collage” is virtually abandoned, the reading being purposely “one-dimensional” – a mirror of a mirror, possibly a reconstruction.
The piece questions “authority” and “authenticity”, perhaps even “originality”. Hence the title: a mask is a disguise…