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Luciano BERIO (1925-2003)
The Complete Sequenzas, Alternate Sequenzas
Sequenza I for flute, (1958) [7:56]
Paula Robison, rec. 1996
Sequenza II for harp (1963) [10:15]
Susan Jolles, rec. 1995
Sequenza III for woman’s voice (1965) [8:46]
Isabelle Ganz, rec. 1996
Sequenza IV for piano (1966) [12:05]
Aki Takahashi, rec. 1999
Sequenza V for trombone (1966) [5:02]
Stuart Dempster, rec. 1995
Sequenza VI for viola (1967) [13:16]
Garth Knox, rec. 1995
Sequenza VII for oboe (1969/2000) [7:36]
Jacqueline Leclair, rec. 2004
Sequenza VIII for violin (1976) [13:56]
Irvine Arditti, rec. 1995
Sequenza IXa for clarinet (1980) [16:04]
Carol Robinson, rec. 2000
Sequenza IXb for alto saxophone (1981) [17:50]
Kelland Thomas, rec. 1967
Sequenza X for trumpet and piano resonance (1984) [15:16]
William Foreman, rec. 2001)
Sequenza XI for guitar (1987/8) [18:42]
Seth Josel., rec. 2003
Sequenza XII for bassoon (1995) [17:07]
Noriko Shimada, rec. 2001
Sequenza XIII for accordion “Chanson” 1995) [10:10]
Stefan Hussong, rec. 2000*
Sequenza XIVa for cello (2002) [11:38]
Rohan de Saram, rec. 2004*
Sequenza VIb for cello (1981) [15:34]
Rohan de Saram, rec. 2001*
Sequenza VIIb for soprano saxophone (1995) [7:29]
Ulrich Krieger, rec. 2004
Sequenza IXc for bass clarinet (1980) [13:37]
Alain Billard, rec. 2005
Sequenza XIVb for contrabass (2004) [12:56]
Stefano Scodanibbio, rec. 2005*
Rounds for harpsichord (1964/5) [2:08]
Jane Chapman, rec. 2005
Gesti for recorder (1966) [5:20]
Lucia Mense, rec. 1995
Fa-Si for organ (1975) [9:47]
Gary Verkade, rec. 2005
Les mots sont allés…for cello (1978) [4:03]
Rohan de Saram, rec. 2004
Lied for clarinet (1983) [5:04]
Comma for clarinet (1987) [1:34]
Carol Robinson, rec. 2005*
Psy for contrabass (1989) [1:57]
Michael Cameron, rec. date unknown
Chanson pour Pierre Boulez for cello (2000) [2:46]
Rohan de Saram, rec. 2006*
Gute Nacht for trumpet (1986) [1:04]
Brian McWhorter, rec. 2005
*first recording
All Sequenzas are preceded by verses of Edoardo Sanguinetti performed by Enzo Salomane
MODE 161/3 [4 CDs: 66:43 + 78:11 + 76:36 + 47:02]

This is an extremely important recording in many ways. It is the most complete recording of the Sequenzas and nine connected pieces for solo instruments. The famous recording with soloists from Ensemble InterContemporain on DG, will remain important, but it was made in 1998, before some of the pieces on this set were even written. For example, we have here the first recordings of the legendary Sequenzas for cello. They are performed by Rohan de Saram, to whom they were dedicated. Berio conferred with de Saram as he wrote, sounding out his ideas with the cellist to see how far the technical process could meet the musical imagination. I heard de Saram play Sequenza XIV in 2002, very shortly after it was written, and was overwhelmed. I’ve been waiting for this recording ever since!
Any serious Berio admirer will be getting this 4 CD set sooner or later. It’s only a matter of time. The main reason for reviewing it is to alert people of its existence, and to assure anyone in any doubt, that it is worth every penny. This set may initially be expensive, but is value for money in the longer term, because the performances here are superb, and the new pieces are an essential part of the repertoire. .
Furthermore, this set includes spoken performances of Sanguinetti’s poems before each piece as was Sequenza performance practice. The DG set has them printed in the booklet, but that’s not the same thing. Far from interrupting the music, the short aphorisms enhance overall atmosphere, for Sanguinetti and Berio were artistic twins, fertilising each others work. Sequenzas can, and are performed as stand-alones for obvious reasons, but on a recording when they are played together, the recitation acts as a connecting thread. All the performances here were recorded separately, as were those in the Ensemble InterContemporain set, and even in different countries. The concept fits in well with Berio’s panoramic, international world-view.
Yet another reason why this set will be the one to get is the quality of the performances. These are outstanding, and even as stand-alones would be reason enough to seek out. For example, Sequenza V for trombone is played by Stuart Dempster, who commissioned and premiered it. It’s built on the concept of the word “Why?”. The trombonist sings, speaks and plays, while making his trombone ”speak”, stretching its technical boundaries, making it sound almost human.
With Sequenza VIII, there’s another outstanding performance, by Irvine Arditti. Berio referred to it as a homage to a Bach chaconne, and Sanguinetti wrote “for you I have multiplied my voices”. Arditti’s performance is breathtaking, as he navigates the complex patterns with extreme speed and precision. I’ve been listening to this on “repeat”, marvelling at its imaginative vibrancy. It wouldn’t be fair to expect all performances to be in Arditti’s league, but the other pieces on the second disc are also extremely well played. Not long ago I heard Markus Stockhausen perform Sequenza X in live recital, watching how he achieved the resonances by playing into the piano, making it vibrate without being touched. That doesn’t translate nearly as well in recording. Here, Foreman has more gravitas.
Rohan de Saram’s Sequenzas XIVa and XIVb are the reason I held out so long for this recording, and have no regrets whatsoever about waiting. De Saram is integrally connected to these pieces and premiered all versions as they developed. This makes for fluidity and spontaneity – de Saram puts personality into what he plays. The use of cello as percussion owes much to his youth, when he played drums in Kandy, which naturally fascinated a mind like Berio’s. On the fourth disc, there are two more pieces by de Saram, Les mots sont allés. and Chanson pour Pierre Boulez. Les mots was written as a tribute to Paul Sacher and premiered by Rostropovich. Chanson may be a miniature, but packs many striking ideas into a short span of time. This is its first recording, made as recently as April 2006.
Then there’s Sequenza XIVb for contrabass. It wasn’t complete at the time of the composer’s death but was put together by Stefano Scodanibbio, who performs it here. Berio was the kind of man who welcomed the input of other artists, and appreciated transcriptions and variations. This sequenza extends the repertoire, and will, I hope, become a regular in the repertoire.
There’s so much in this set, that anyone interested in Berio literally “needs” it. Mode has created a quality product, well designed, well recorded and musically intelligent. I didn’t buy the budget Naxos set (see review) which was released at about the same time, because I knew this set was in the pipeline. The Ensemble InterContemporain performances on the DG set are classic. Direct comparison of performances between the DG and Mode sets is meaningless: both are of such high quality that you do need both. But go for the Mode first, if you don’t already have the DG set, partly because it’s complete, and has so many outstanding performances and firsts. You won’t know the Sequenzas properly without it.
Anne Ozorio


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