- Luciano Berio
- Centro Studi
- Per Luciano
It is hard to imagine that Berio was only 34 when I met him for the first time. As I was then a very young composer, 22 years old, the age difference was actually not that big. But when I arrived in Milan as his student in 1962, I saw him more as God than anything else.
Lucianoâ€™s and Cathyâ€™s daughter Cristina was 8 years old at the time, and was listening all day long to the Beatles.
Most of the autumn of â€™62 Berio was at his house in Lingueglietta working on his opera Passaggio. The house overlooked the Mediterranean and was not far from Imperia, where his parents lived. We both had fathers who were organists.
Apart from the composing, his main interest was fishing and his biggest ambition, already then, was to start cultivating his own wineyard. Two years later Lingueglietta was sold because he had to buy a house in California, due to his new position as a teacher at Mills College. This was a famous "Chair", since Darius Milhaud had held that job during most of the years of World War II. At the time it was still an all-girls college, as was Vivaldiâ€™s conservatorio in Venice 200 years earlier.
It took me some time to persuade mu only barely well-off musician friend Frans Brueggen to buy the house in Lingueglietta, because we wanted to spend our holidays there. For many years we drove from Amsterdam in minuscule Fiats 600 over the not-yet-existing French highways, full of cars driven by French murderers. Together with friends in Lingueglietta we played all the card games Luciano had taught me: Briscola, Scopa, and especially Sputo nellâ€™oceano, Â«spit in the oceanÂ», an extremely wild and nerve-wracklingly fast double patience.
Luciano always won, unless he was playing with the children of his sister Miriana. Her family hired the house next to Lucianoâ€™s. There, Mirianaâ€™s husband taught me how to stuff meat with garlic, oregano, basil, and other Italian delicacies.
During the winter of â€™64-â€™65, Luciano lived in West Berlin. Through a generous invitation of the Ford Foundation, he was able to take a few students with him. I remember numerous heavy car trips through loads of dirty snow. Later rumours were circulated that this whole Ford Foundation thing was stimulated by the CIA, to form a Â«cultural front against communismÂ».
Apart from meeting the profoundly impressive W.H. Auden, we became friends with people like Frederic Rzewski and Yugi Takahashi. Luciano was composing, as ever, but evenings were regularly spent with dinners and discussions about literature, politics, and music. Luciano liked to cook, and served amazing pastas and main courses.
I remember how he could, sometimes, completely unexpectedly, be very tender and full of attention to someone at the table. Then his hands were as expressive as his voice, and he was miraculously lovable.