Luciano Berio’s ‘Sinfonia’ Revisited

Source: Los Angeles Times.

Everyone is asking, or predicting, “what’s next.” That’s what you do in a pandemic. But it is also what you do in life and art.

Mahler did it in his “Resurrection” Symphony, his despair being that there is no point in living if there isn’t something beyond our suffering. Samuel Beckett began his novel “The Unnamable” with the questions: “Where now? Who now? When now?”

And Luciano Berio, applying Mahler’s symphony and Beckett’s novel as framework in his “Sinfonia,” took “What next?” to the next step. Written in 1968, “Sinfonia” is the most lasting symphonic work of and about that year — the year in which “What next?” has meant more than any other since the end of World War II. Given the chilling parallels between 1968 and now, “Sinfonia” proved a miraculously exhilarating breath of fresh air, a way forward by remaking the past in our image, or as Berio put it, “remembering the future.”