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Semyon Bychkov

I first met Luciano in the United States in 1987 when he was conducting Katia and Marielle [Labèque] in his Concerto for two pianos with the Cleveland orchestra. They were still adolescents when they went to the Paris premiere of his Sinfonia, which he conducted. They were so overwhelmed by this music that they went to see him afterwards and asked if he would write a concerto for two pianos. Well, he composed it. So, when Marielle entered my life and when I found out that she would perform it with Berio in Cleveland, I flew there to attend their concert. At that time I was quite distanced from the language of his music and felt rather excluded. So I told myself that the only way to develop a connection to it might be by listening to a concert conducted by the composer himself. By the end of the performance, something began to shift inside me. Just after, all four of us went out for a drink. We continued talking for a long time, and that night began a very beautiful friendship which lasted until the end of his life, with several shared projects.
Sometimes, we would spend entire hours on the phone as I had many questions to ask him concerning Sinfonia, Rendering, the Concerto for two pianos, Canticum Novissimi Testamenti. Luciano was not meticulous in his notation and I had to clarify questions of tempo, articulation, and even verifying certain notes. He was very patient, and he had such a joyful way in discussing music, all kinds of music. He had this gift of being able to explain to all, even those who weren’t familiar with his world, in simple words, the most complex thoughts on musical process.

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[Autografo di L. Berio con dedica; archivio privato di S. Bychkov, per gentile concessione]