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Luciano Berio: Kol od

  • (Chemins VI) (1996)
  • for trumpet and chamber orchestra
  • 3 1 4 1 - 2 2 1 1 - cel, acc, sop.sax, alto sax, vln(4), vla(3), vc(3), cb(2)
  • Duration: 20’
  • Soloists:
  • Instrumentation details:
    1st flute
    2nd flute
    clarinet in Eb
    1st clarinet in Bb
    2nd clarinet in Bb
    bass clarinet in Bb
    soprano saxophone in Bb
    alto saxophone in Eb
    1st horn in F
    2nd horn in F
    1st trumpet in C
    2nd trumpet in C
    bass tuba
    1st violin
    2nd violin
    3rd violin
    4th violin
    1st viola
    2nd viola
    3rd viola
    1st violoncello
    2nd violoncello
    3rd violoncello
    1st contrabass
    2nd contrabass
  • Composer: Luciano Berio
  • Dedication: per Paul Sacher con profondo affetto e ammirazione, per il suo novantesimo compleanno
  • Remarks: * on Sequenza X

Work introduction

The intentional utilisation of musical material previously employed is a practice common to both Boulez and Berio. It appears to be no coincidence that both composers can be seen to have an affinity with the elaboration of concepts of James Joyce’s novels. In the case of the Italian composer, however, these concepts are realised in quite a different manner. With Berio, there is less of a „vanguard action“ (Flucht nach vorn) and rather more of a classic approach to transcription which is nevertheless deflected through the contemporary lens.

The series of works with the titel Chemins is a re-writing of the Sequenzas for solo instruments within the context of a concerto. Chemins I was derived from Sequenza II for harp, and Chemins II was based on Sequenza VI for viola. Berio has said about this form of transcription: „I am interested in transcription from the moment it defies strict definition, when it exceeds a restoration of the past - be that a personal one or the past of our cultural history. Transcription begins to interest me when it explores music as an ensemble of possibilities and not as an actual and concrete object. In short: when it is not a mere transcription but also a conscious invention. (...)

Transcriptions (as is perhaps the case with parody) can be found everywhere: in the oeuvre of Bach and Beethoven, who also happened to transcribe their own music; (...) of Ravel, Bartók, Webern; of Stravinsky who transcribed everything possible; (...) of Maderna who transcribed Gabrieli...

But there are some aspects of transcription which interest me less than the others: Let’s say the functional transcriptions of the Art of Fugue by Bach or the mouth-watering transcriptions of his Preludes and Fugues for organ. Those hold my interest far less than the sketch books by Beethoven, for example, in which he plays through several combinations and transcriptions of an idea. Or take, moreover, Stravinsky’s procedure in transcribing Les Noces, or of Boulez transcribing Polyphony X, Livre pour Quatuor or Poésie pour pouvoir and of Stockhausen transcribing Kontrapunkte or of Kagel transcribing musical stereotypes of the nineteenth century.“

It might become self-evident that Berio’s transcriptions of the Sequenzas into Chemins are not just orchestrations of an orchestral part as an accompaniment to a solo part. Rather they aim at a genuine re-invention of the whole, including of the solo part. It seems fitting to understand also KOL OD in this manner in its relation to the Sequenza X for trumpet.


The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

World première

Basel (CH)
Ensemble Intercontemporain
Pierre Boulez
Main soloists:
Gabriele Cassone

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