Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cathy Berberian - 1967 - Revolution / Beatles Arias Chantés Par Cathy Berberian

Cathy Berberian
Revolution / Beatles Arias Chantés Par Cathy Berberian

01. Ticket To Ride   
02. I Want To Hold Your Hand   
03. Michelle    2:28
04. Eleanor Rigby   
05. Yellow Submarine   
06. Here, There And Everywhere   
07. Help!   
08. You've Got To Hide Your Love Away   
09. Yesterday   
10. Can't Buy Me Love
11. Girl   
12. A Hard Day's Night   

13. Pourquoi Je Chante Les Beatles?
14. Introduction   
15. Ticket To Ride   
16. Yesterday
17. Ticket To Ride

Harpsichord – Guy Boyer (tracks: 1 to 12)
Tracks 1 to 12, originally released in 1967. Unnamed chamber music ensemble led by Guy Boyer, harpsichord.
Recorded December 1966 at Studio Arsonor, Paris.

Tracks 13: Cathy Berberian interviewed on Radio France, February 1975
Tracks 14 to 15: recorded at the Festival d'Avignon, 1982
Tracks 16 to 17: recorded at the Festival de Divonne-les-Bains, 1980

Cathy Berberian was an American mezzo-soprano vocalist based in Italy. She was known as a proponent of both avant garde and contemporary vocal music, moving during her career from debuting one of John Cage’s major works, his “Aria with Fontana Mix” composition in 1958, to covering Beatles songs. Cathy Berberian was an opera diva who never took herself too seriously and she was probably the hippest lady in classical music of her day, a sort of spiritual predecessor to Laurie Anderson in certain respects.

Born in 1925, after attending Columbia University, Berberian received a Fulbright scholarship in 1949 to study music at the Milan Conservatory where she would meet her future husband, the great composer Luciano Berio, who would write music for her during their marriage (you might say they were collaborations considering how integral her contribution is!) and afterwards. His Requies: in memoriam Cathy composition premiered the year after her death of a sudden heart attack at the age of 57 in 1983. It’s interesting to note that when she passed, Berberian was to sing “The Internationale” (ala Marilyn Monroe) on TV in Rome to Karl Marx on the anniversary of his birth. That’s the sort of performer Cathy Berberian was. She just didn’t take it all that seriously, and yet, she took her artform very seriously indeed. Pompous, she wasn’t, although she was the most celebrated vocal recitalist of her time spent on Earth.

Sylvano Bussotti, Hans Werner Henze, William Walton and even Igor Stravinsky works for Cathy Berberian’s distinctive voice. She’s even name-checked in the Steely Dan song “Your Gold Teeth” on Countdown to Ecstasy: “Even Cathy Berberian knows / There’s one roulade she can’t sing.” (There’s the answer to that Trivial Pursuit question!) Of his multifaceted wife, Berio said “The versatility of her mind was astonishing.” Aside from her great vocal gifts, she was also a gourmet chef, a fashion model, a collector of pornographic porcelain and she translated Jules Feiffer and Woody Allen’s work into Italian with Umberto Eco.

But for all of her high-falutin’ musical and intellectual pedigrees, Cathy Berberian was equally known as someone with a wicked sense of humor. Her Revolution album of Beatles covers is a unique and quirky collection indeed, but she really ties together her pop and avant garde inclinations beautifully in her own composition, “Stripsody,” a short vocal piece where she uses comic book exclamations and sounds (Words like “Boing!” “Vrrop vrrop” appear on the sheet music) to get the point across, sounding very much like a humorous version of Cage’s Fontana Mix combined with Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot’s “Comic Strip.”

It kind of annoys me that most people these days will only encounter Cathy Berberian through this album, mostly by proxy - tracks from here show up on compilation albums with such tasteful titles as The Weird Beatles, The Funny Beatles, Crap Beatles, whatever.  Man, this is the woman behind Stripsody and Omaggio A Joyce and Aria With Fontana Mix and however many other pieces.  John Cage and Igor Stravinsky both wrote tributes to her, she was that respected in the classical world.  Whatever.

So basically it's an album of Beatles covers, sung in an operatic style, with basic backing provided mostly by harpsichord and a string quartet.



  2. I just heard a track from this LP for this first time today. What a trip! I'm looking forward to hearing the complete album. Thanks for sharing!