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Berio Sequenzas I-XIV for Solo Instruments - Naxos & Mode

Shulman; Goodman; Arnold; Berman; Trudel; Dann; Sarc; Wood; Valdepeñas; Few; Villegas; Munday; Petric; Adkins; Halladay

Naxos 8.557661-63 (three CDs - three hours)

Welcome to a new recording of the fourteen numbered Berio Sequenzas; a major work has really "arrived", and is more likely to have an ongoing concert life, once it has been re-recorded by different musicians and in another continent. Here, from Canada, there are variants of No 7 (oboe/saxophone) and No 9 (clarinet/saxophone); Gesti for recorder would really have merited inclusion too.

No 14 for cello here is a world premiere recording; it is not included in the DG recording with original soloists and members of Ensemble Intercontemporain.

I have not attempted comparisons (nor do I have the scores to do so) but this bargain set from Naxos is well played and satisfactorily recorded in Newmarket, Ontario (November 1999-May 2004), so far as I can judge from sampling. Names of players I have enjoyed reviewing recently include Tony Arnold at Lucerne - "a palpable hit with Jonathan Harvey's Song Offerings", Boris Berman at a Prokofiev Study Day, and accordionist Joseph Petric in new Canadian compositions for his instrument.

Good notes by Richard Whitehouse, who mentions Sanguinetti's epigraphs for twelve of Luciano Berio's Sequenzas; I have searched for them without success. The opportunity to have them recited by the musicians before each performance was lost, even though there is plenty of spare space on these Naxos discs.


LUCIANO BERIO The Complete Sequenzas + Alternate Sequenzas


Sequenza I for flute, Paula Robison
Sequenza II for harp, Susan Jolles
Sequenza III for woman’s voice, Isabelle Ganz
Sequenza IV for piano, Aki Takahashi
Sequenza V for trombone, Stuart Dempster
Sequenza VI for viola, Garth Knox
Sequenza VII for oboe, Jacqueline Leclair
Sequenza VIII for violin, Irvine Arditti
Sequenza IXa for clarinet, Carol Robinson
Sequenza IXb for alto saxophone, Kelland Thomas
Sequenza X for trumpet and piano resonance, William Foreman
Sequenza XI for guitar, Seth Josel., rec. 2003
Sequenza XII for bassoon, Noriko Shimada
Sequenza XIII for accordion “Chanson”, Stefan Hussong
Sequenza XIVa for cello, Rohan de Saram,
Sequenza VIb for cello, Rohan de Saram
Sequenza VIIb for soprano saxophone, Ulrich Krieger
Sequenza IXc for bass clarinet, Alain Billard
Sequenza XIVb for contrabass, Stefano Scodanibbio
Rounds for harpsichord, Jane Chapman
Gesti for recorder, Lucia Mense
Fa-Si for organ, Gary Verkade
Les mots sont allés…for cello, Rohan de Saram
Lied for clarinet, Comma for clarinet, Carol Robinson
Psy for contrabass, Michael Cameron
Chanson pour Pierre Boulez for cello, Rohan de Saram
Gute Nacht for trumpet, Brian McWhorter

All Sequenzas are preceded by verses of Edoardo Sanguinetti performed by Enzo Salomane

MODE 161/3 [4 CDs]

Here is the third and completest recording of the Berio solo Sequenzas with associated compositions and arrangements; the version which will surely become established as the definitive "must have" set. The project took the indefatigable Brian Brandt a decade to complete, with particular assistance acknowledged from Irvine Arditti, Carol Robinson and Rohan de Saram.

We have enjoyed all three releases, but this one has to take the palm. Brian Brandt has not missed the opportunity to link the items with the Sanguinetti epigraphs mentioned by Richard Whitehouse above; they are recited delightfully by Enzo Salomane and give a pleasing continuity.

This body of work will live in concert life to represent 20th century innovation for the foreseeable future. Every aspiring soloist will master his instrument's Sequenza, and it is noteworthy that in London's Berio Festival (April 2004) RAM students showed that Berio's oeuvre is likely to be secure in the hands of future generations, his solo Sequenzas key works delineating how the respective instruments developed during the 20th century. It is a pleasure to recall that my younger son, who played trombone in the National Youth Orchestra but did not go on to make music his career, presented Sequenza 5 successfully for his graduation exam concert long ago.

The packaging and artwork in this collaborative production, masterminded by Brian Brandt over a decade with meticulous attention to detail, is exemplary and there are splendid photos of all the artists. A warm welcome to this project, which I have been enjoying on a variety of equipments, including my iPod whilst out and about...

Classical Net tried to evaluate the earlier Deutsche Grammophon set against Naxos's bargain release, and concluded that "the performers on both are excellent, with no one sounding less than compelling - - for those adventurous listeners wanting to sample this collection in a single set, the Naxos would be the easy choice".

I have only one small caveat which hopefully will be remedied in future reprintings - the comprehensive booklet, an indispensable sourse of background information, has too small margins (or has been pasted too enthusiastically) so that one has to guess the first one or two letters between pages.

Peter Grahame Woolf

For a detailed disc-by-disc evaluation of this landmark release, do see Anne Ozorio in Music Web and her interview with Rohan de Saram.


© Peter Grahame Woolf