Luciano Berio – Cries of London, for eight voices (1976)


Olive Simpson, Catherine Bott, sopranos
Carol Hall, Linda Hirst, mezzo-sopranos
John Potter, Ward Swingle, tenors
John Lubbock, David Beavan, basses

Cries of London, for eight voices (two sopranos, two contraltos, two tenors and two basses), are a reworking of an earlier piece bearing the same name for six voices (two contraltos, one tenor, two baritone and one bass), written in 1974 for the King’s Singers.

In this new version, the Cries of London become a short cycle of seven vocal pieces of folk nature, where a simple piece regularly alternates with a more elaborate one. The first and third “Cry” have the same text. The fifth “Cry” is the exact repetition of the first one. The seventh piece, “Cry of Cries”, is a commentary on the preceding “Cries”. As it takes on their melodies and their harmonic characters, it also moves away from them musically, as a distant echoing…

As a whole, this short cycle can also be listened to as an exercise in musical characterization and dramatization. The texts have been chosen among the famous cries of Old London street vendors. –Luciano Berio

Art by Peter Ellenshaw


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