Luciano Berio - Sequenza I

from by Eduardo González

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The work of Italian composer Luciano Berio is noted for his experimental music and for his pioneering work in electronic music. Berio also produced work that does not quote the work of others at all. Perhaps best known among these is his series of works for solo instruments under the name Sequenza. The Sequenza I for flute is an example of a partially indeterminate musical form. Berio notated the piece so that an individual staff line has a fixed duration, while the durations of individual notes are indicated proportionately – that is, a small distance between one note and the next denotes a short duration, whereas a greater distance denotes a longer duration. The actual realization of such guidelines is left to the player in such a way that specific elements in the score will vary with each performer and each performance. This kind of "open" structure allows for flexibility within an otherwise rigorous form. The melodic and harmonic content of Sequenza I grew out of Berio's serial-influenced language, resulting in a highly controlled employment of pitch. Spontaneity in performance, then, comes from the moment-to-moment adjustments of rhythm and performance gesture called for by Berio's suggestive – rather than prescriptive – notation. This juxtaposition of regulated versus improvisatory musical materials, however, was not the main impetus behind Sequenza I. Like Berio's successive solo works – and apart from certain rhetorical-historical commentary that may be present in these – Sequenza I embodies a quest for counterpoint and harmony through the means of a single melodic line. Berio's precedents in this regard include the solo flute and other solo instrumental works of Bach, but the harmonic language of the twentieth century required a new approach to this "virtual polyphony”. Berio's approach is one that allows the proliferation of different kinds of musical drama; at the same time, though, harmonic rules are invented and played out. The pitch materials of Sequenza I are initially simple, consisting primarily of descending chromatic scale passages that incorporate octave displacement and rhythmic ambiguity. The symmetrical chromatic scale gives way to more complex collections of notes; these more complex gestures are incorporated into the work in a way that provides the impression of whole blocks of notes in counterpoint with other blocks. Sustained pitches are set against fast passagework, high is set against low, aggressive against introspective: it is Berio's harmonic thread and the performer's sense of the work's structural outlay that provide the work's unifying elements. Sequenza I was written for the Italian flutist Severino Gazzelloni, who premiered the work at Darmstadt in 1958.


from Flautisimo!, released February 2, 2015



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Eduardo González Mexico City, Mexico

The outstanding talent of flutist Eduardo Gonzalez has placed him without a doubt as one of the most distinctive Mexican musicians of his generation. With performances in Mexico and abroad, he has shared the scene with artists of the stature of Plácido Domingo and Andrea Bocelli. His interest to promote contemporary music has encouraged composers to honor him with the dedication of their work. ... more

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