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Ensemble InterContemporain: Luciano Berio: Sequenzas

C. Michael Bailey By

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A Memo to Glenn Astarita, Modern/Avant-Garde Editor, All About Jazz:

Mr. Astarita:

Avant-Garde jazz may be considered in the same vein as much 20th Century postmodern classical music, a la Maurice Kagel and Luciano Berio. Both genres (if, indeed, they are different) boast a deliberate composition and/or improvisation providing a product of almost stream-of-consciousness sound. Knowing your interest in the avant-garde in jazz, I thought you might interested in what is happening on the other side of the fence.

The Italian composer Luciano Berio has been composing a series of “Sequenzas”; compositions for solo instruments, since the mid-1950s. They are not unlike Bach’s suites for solo instruments and can be considered the progeny of that German’s instrumental creation. Berio considered these compositions his “ harmonic discourse with melody”. Indeed. These pieces are asymmetric, arrhythmic splashes of tones and smears, an embarrassment of aural richness that appears suddenly in the center and radiates outward. The current collection is the most recent release of any Sequenzas and is the first release of the complete collection extant. For this collection, DB has assembled an outstanding cast of soloists, several show are closely associated with Berio.

The earliest composition is the Sequenza I for Flute (1958) and the latest are the Sequenzas for Bassoon and Accordion, respectively (1995). The must hears in this set are Sequenza III for Woman’s Voice (Luisa Castellani, Berio’s preferred interpreter of his vocal works), Sequenza V for Trombone (Benny Sluchin, forget Wycliffe Gordon, these are effects that break the mold), and Sequenza XIII for Accordion (Teodoro Anzellotti). Anzellotti is considered the Liszt of the accordion (Sequenza XIII was composed specifically for him). He is also featured on a Kagel collection recently released on Winter & Winter.

So, Berio is no Bach and was never meant to be. He is also not Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, or Sam Rivers. This may be music in its purest, subatomic form, existing the moment it is played. I thought you might like to know about it.


Track Listing: Sequenzas I - IV

Personnel: Ensemble InterContemporain

Title: Luciano Berio: Sequenzas | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Deutsche Grammophon

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