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Magnificat (author's note)


I composed the Magnificat while I was still studying at the Conservatory in Milano with G. F. Ghedini. I remember the deep impression Ghedini’s “Concerto Spirituale” had on me in those years, and it is therefore inevitable, I suppose, that its impact has filtered into some sections of my “Magnificat”. But, there is also something else behind this work.
I was born in a small town in Italy, near the French border and far from the so-called cultural centers. There I lived until the age of eighteen, studying and learning everything I could about my “heritage”. I never felt rgretful of, nor under-privileged by living in a provincial town, but I felt injured and angry when, in 1945, with the end of fascism, I realized the extent and the depth of the cultural deprivation that fascism had imposed on me. That same year (I was already twenty) I was for the first time in my life able to hear the music of Schönberg, Milhaud, Hindemith, Bartok, Webern, etc.; that is, the real voices of my European heritage. These composers as well as others had previously been forbidden by fascist “cultural politics”. The impact was, to say the least, traumatic, and it took me at least six years to recover from it. I believed, and I still do, that the best way to deal with “traumatic experience” is to cope with them to the end, and, if possible, to exorcise them on their own ground. These are the premises of Magnificat, written in 1949. It was one of my last exorcism of the experiences and encounters of those years, and, I thingk, my last tribute to them.

Magnificat, from 1949, constitutes my last exorcism of the experiences and encounters of those years, above all, of Hindemith, Bartok and Stavinksy and, I think, one of my last tributes to them. I composed Magnificat when I was still studing in Milan with G.F. Ghedini – for whose teaching I am still deeply grateful: – the hearing of his Concerto Spirituale was an unforgettable experience that, I suppose, left traces of it on several pages of this youthful work of mine.

Luciano Berio