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posted on 06.10.09


Canticum Novissimi Testamenti II (1989) by Luciano Berio for 8 voices, 4 clarinets, and saxophone quartet.  The text is excerpted from Edoardo Sanguineti’s Novissimum Testamentum.

The you tube clip is an excerpt, but there are many good recordings available. 


Do you remember that feeling you had when you were a kid and had received a present? Even if  you might have known what it was, you may still not have expected the gift, and still: you knew that you wanted it more than anything? That upon opening it there was that immediate, heady, and dizzying feeling of pure bliss.

After listening to this piece repeatedly, I knew that I would have to buy the score; and when it arrived: pure bliss. 


Sanguineti’s text, a meditation on ageing and death,  is masterfully embraced in Berio’s score. Berio also collaborated with Sanguineti in earlier works such as: Passaggio (1961-2), Laborintus II (1963-65), and A-Ronne (1974/75).  Canticum Novissimi Testamenti II is a culmination of Berio’s lifetime work with music and text, and this piece is representative of his highly personal modernism, which embraced theatre, text, and new sonorities. 


Luciano Berio is one of the foremost influences in my own writing. 


Musically approaching Sanguineti’s late “anti-poetry” has become increasingly arduous and, probably for the same reason, more gratifying. One of the newest and most complex aspects of Sanguineti’s recent works is its simplicity. It is poetry inhabited by day-to-day images, sentimental stereotypes, harsh and bitter figures, ironic inventions, parodies, and references that unfold in a sort of echo chamber of the memory, in which the everyday and the universal, the banal and the speculative, the private and the political are melded together in a form that is both rigorous and at times unrelenting. My first experience with Sanguineti’s Novissimum Testamentum dates from 1988 and the composition of a short choral work. In this my latest attempt to musically penetrate the poem’s “simplicity,” I have tried to develop a memory echo chamber using distinct and parallel sound layouts. It is certainly a work in progress (I have only used a portion of the original text), constructed along modular lines and open to new developments.

Luciano Berio

This quote is from the SMCQ website and can be found here.




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Luciano Berio


Classical Music




Classical Music