Luciano Berio: Sequenza XIV

Luciano Berio Sequenza XIV
Sequenza XIV

Luciano Berio: Sequenza XIV

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for violoncello
Luciano Berio
Table of contents:
Sequenza XIV für Violoncello
Commissione della Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln, della Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisboa, e della Società del Quartetto di Milano.
scritta per Rohan de Saram
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Sequenza XIV

Work introduction

I feel very honoured that Maestro Berio wrote this work for me. I feel also great sorrow that we did not have the opportunity to meet in August 2003, as planned, in order to finalise technical details. His last words to me were, “See you in August!"

Part of the inspiration for Sequenza XIV came from Luciano's interest in the Kandyan drum rhythms of Sri Lanka, Kandy being the ancient capital of Ceylon, the Sri Lanka of today. Several times after my performances of Ritorno degli Snovidenia, with Maestro Berio conducting, he wanted to know about the musical instruments of the country I came from, Sri Lanka, particularly the Kandyan drum which I have played myself since I was a boy.

The Kandyan drum is one of the main instruments of Sri Lanka, a country rich in rhythmic instruments. The ceremonies with which these instruments are associated date back to pre-Buddhist times.

One fact about the Kandyan drum which interested Maestro Berio was that it has four sounds, two sounds on each end of this cylindrically-shaped instrument. He was amused to note that of the two instruments I played, one had four strings whilst the other had four percussion sounds!

Maestro Berio later asked for tapes to be sent of the drum rhythms, together with western-style notations which I notated for him so that he could follow the rhythms on the tapes. One of the rhythms which he chose to use in the rhythmic sections of the Sequenza was a twelve-beat rhythm which he sometimes used quite freely with an added beat to make a thirteen-beat rhythm, and sometimes with one beat missing, making an eleven-beat rhythm.

In the rhythmic sections of the Sequenza, there are no two presentations of this rhythm with identical pitch in the left hand percussion on the strings of the cello. The bow is not used in these sections, the right hand playing the rhythm on the belly of the cello whilst the left hand fingers hit the strings in a percussive way, mostly simultaneously with the right hand.

The rhythmic section that opens the Sequenza in its third, final version did not exist in the version that I premiered in Witten in April 2002. The present percussive opening was introduced for the second version that I premiered in Milan in November 2002. On the other hand, the rhythmic section that occurs towards the end of the Sequenza was present in the first, second [&] final version.

The third, final version which I premiered in Los Angeles in February 2003 differed from the second version not only in details of the percussive sections, but also in numerous additions to the melodic sections, especially towards the end of the piece. Many of the dynamic and timbre indications in the piece were added by me with the approval of the composer.

Rohan de Saram

August 2003

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World première

Witten (DE)
Main soloists:
Rohan de Saram, vlc

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