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Dialogues: Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas Cycle

Workshop with Angela Ida De Benedictis, Claire Chase, Lucas Fels & Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir

In collaboration with Centro Studi Luciano Berio (Giovanni Cestino) and the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel

Additional workshop

Tutors: Angela Ida De Benedictis, Claire Chase, Lucas Fels, Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir

When: 12 – 15 August 2023

The Lecture-Performance on Luciano Berio’s Gesti serves as an introduction to the workshop and is open to the public (12 August 10.00, Akademie für Tonkunst, Wilhelm-Petersen-Saal).

Who: Primarily participants of the flute, harp and cello studios, but other instrumentalists or listeners are very welcome. For better planning, please send a short e-mail to and indicate if one of Berio’s Sequenzas is in your repertoire.

Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas cycle marks a turning point in the repertoire for each of the instruments that Berio wrote for, creating a “before and after” effect as of the idiomatic writing, technical and performance practice of these instruments.

The Sequenzas as a solid cycle are characterized by complex (sometimes intricate) creative processes in which the interaction between composer and performer, and between traditional repertoire and innovative writing, enhance the relevance of the performer’s input as a source for the compositional process, and thereby the importance of non-written information (performing practice) for the sonic identity of the musical work. Moreover, the Sequenzas cycle reveals the crucial role of the editorial process as a “third actor” in the genetic history of the pieces.

The Sequenzas are a corpus with a multi-faceted (yet precise) relationship with many other works in Berio’s catalogue which are derived from or related to the single Sequenzas. The paradigm “Sequenza-Chemins” is the most evident manifestation of this relationship, but not the only one. The creative processes of the works often derives from extra-canonical musical materials – i.e. from non-Western(ized) musical ideas, techniques, and quotations — or from the elaboration/transmutation of Western Art Music materials. In this respect, the Sequenzas also offer a peculiar observation point on the history of music that exceeds the repertoire of each instrument.

We see this workshop as a multimodal “sharing system” of musical and musicological knowledge, in which different approaches blend into a non-polarized and circular learning process around works, documents, contexts, and technical or theoretical problems. It is an occasion for reconsidering the relationship between performance practice and musicological research, as complementary and “applied” disciplines interacting with each other. In this sense, the corpus of Berio’s Sequenzas offers a perfect “working environment” for testing the longstanding issue of integration between theory and practice. The workshop also offers a perspective on how digital devices and platforms can enhance, improve, and impact on the way musicians approach the interpretive process, and construct their performative ideas according to “in-depth reading” of the musical sources that go well beyond the “surface” of the published score.

Outline of the Workshop

  • Gesti for alto recorder (1966): considered as a kind of “Sequenza without a number”, this little piece will provide a methodological introduction for the whole workshop;
  • Sequenza I for flute (1958): the piece represents the beginning of the cycle, and sheds light on multiple relationships (Berio and Gazzelloni, Berio and the Darmstadt’s milieu, etc.);
  • Sequenza II for harp (1963): this “enigmatic” Sequenza, written for harpist Francis Pierre, has later been used as a partial material for other compositions;
  • Sequenza XIV for cello (2002): the last piece in the cycle, whose composer- performer relationship was left somehow “open” because of Berio’s death.

Workshop Schedule

  • Sat 12 August: 10.00–11.30 Performance-Lecture on Gesti / Introduction for all, after that: focus on Sequenza I for flute (1958) together with the flute studio, Claire Chaise and Angela Ida De Benedictis
  • Sun 13 August: Focus on Sequenza II for harp (1963) with the harp studio, Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir and Angela Ida De Benedictis
  • Mon 14 August: Focus on Sequenza XIV for cello (2002) with the cello studio, Lucas Fels and Angela Ida De Benedictis
  • Tue 15 August 11.00–13.00 Final discussion with all to wrap-up the workshop
Working on Berio's "Sequenza I" with Severino Gazzelloni at the Darmstadt Summer Course 1965
© ️IMD-Archiv/Pit Ludwig 1965