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Luciano Berio - Sequenza VI (1/2)

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Uploaded on Jun 5, 2010

Sequenza VI, for viola (1967)

Christophe Desjardins

Following the ultra-gestural theatrics of Sequenza III for voice and Sequenza V for trombone (both from 1966), Luciano Berio returned to a more abstract, though highly dramatic, approach for Sequenza VI for viola (1967). In much the same way that Sequenza II for harp (1963) flew in the face of that instrument's serene associations, Sequenza VI adopts characteristics that redefine the viola's nature. In Sequenza VI, Berio proves the viola capable of an almost flamenco-like aggression. The work, Berio says, is a study in repetition and transformation of relatively basic material. In a nod to Paganini's Caprices for solo violin, Berio begins the piece with furiously bowed multi-stops. These articulate the harmonic fields which permeate the entire piece, interrupted only by short melodic interludes that seem like memories of the viola's more traditional role.

Berio went on to compose Chemins II (1967) and Chemins III (1968/73), both works for viola and ensemble that use Sequenza VI as their core. Such musical "commentaries" on his own work reflect and parallel Berio's approaches to the music of other composers. In works such as Sinfonia (1969), Rendering (1989), and in a number of arrangements, Berio incorporated pre-existent music—from Monteverdi operas to Schubert fragments to Lennon/McCartney tunes—into his own musical language in a varied array of contexts.

Sequenza VI was completed in 1967 for Serge Collot and premiered that year by Walter Trampler in New York City. A transcription for cello was made by Rohan de Saram and first performed by de Saram in London in 1981. [Allmusic.com]

Art by Mark Rothko

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