Symphony in B Minor (“Unfinished”), D 759
Franz Schubert/Luciano Berio
Ludwig van Beethoven
Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92
Luciano Berio was often asked to “do something” with Schubert. He consistently refused until he got his hands on the sketches of Schubert’s Tenth Symphony, written during the last weeks of the composer’s life. Berio wished to avoid a musicological approach, by which one could do much harm in a cavalier attempt to complete the symphony, “as if one were Schubert or even Beethoven”. Instead, Berio tries to bring old colours back to life, as if restoring Giotto’s frescoes in Assisi without disguising the effects of time or filling in the blank spaces. His instrumentation of Schubert’s sketches is in the spirit of the Unfinished Symphony, resorting to the orchestration methods of Mendelssohn only when the music demands it. He fills in the spaces between the individual sketches with music in his own musical language woven from reminiscences of Schubert’s late works, gentle polyphony, and echoes of the music that precedes and follows. Berio tiptoes quietly around Schubert, and every transition between sketches is announced by the celesta. The result is an enchanting symphony full of music that is pure Schubert that sparkles like a precious gem that has been gently, masterfully illuminated by Luciano Berio.