Mode's reissue of Christine Schadeberg's 1995 recital of vocal music by Luciano Berio is a welcome addition to the catalog. While her performances don't make the listener forget the individuality and panache of Cathy Berberian, for whom most of these pieces were written, Schadeberg more than holds her own in her technical and expressive mastery of the music. Her voice is not large, but is remarkably flexible and secure, and her tone is pure. These performances are models of precision and clarity. Only in the mercurial Folk Songs does the listener wish for a more aggressive differentiation of the moods, and more abandon in the final "Azerbaijan" love song. The members of the ensemble Musicians' Accord are fully engaged partners, and their energy and virtuosity are crucial to the vitality of these performances.
It's wonderful to have so many of Berio's major vocal works brought together on a single recording. The CD includes the first recording of Berio's Quattro Canzoni Popolari, written in 1946 and 1947 before the composer's immersion in serialism. (The set includes two songs that the composer would revisit in the 1964 Folk Songs; a comparison of his treatments is fascinating.) Berio has number of unrecorded early vocal works, and if they approach the quality of these songs, a recording is overdue. The recorded sound is clear and crisp, but tends to favor the instruments, and particularly in the more thickly scored sections of the Folk Songs, the balance would have benefited from having the voice more prominently miked.